Medium Martini AKA The Perfect Martini
The last of the 3 main martinis, the medium martini is actually really good and combines the flavors of both the sweet and dry martini. The oldest printed martini recipe I could find is in the the 1888 edition of Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartender’s Manual. His original 1882 edition does not provide a recipe for the Martini. The original martini recipe begins to appear between the late 1880s and 1890s and is essentially a pre-prohibition style Manhattan with Old Tom Gin instead of whiskey. Harry Johnson’s recipe is half Old Tom Gin, half sweet vermouth, a dash of orange liqueur, 2 dashes Boker’s (cardamom) bitters, 2 dashes gum syrup. If you look at my original pre-prohibition style Manhattan recipe they are almost the same, save for the Old Tom Gin. But the recipe begins to change over the next decade until it settles on the more generally accepted 2 oz Old Tom, 1 oz sweet vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters with an expressed lemon peel. This is the standard martini up until the 1910s when the dry variation of the martini is invented and starts to get very popular. The original martini then becomes known as a sweet martini and a medium sweet version is also made that combines the two.
Now while most bartender by the 1910s through to prohibition know of the sweet and dry martini (Not all though, even books like Hoffman house from 1912 and Jack’s Manual from 1916 only have the sweet martini), not all seemed to do medium martinis. Hugo Ensslin’s 1917 book Recipes for Mixed Drinks only list the sweet and dry versions. It’s not till the mid 1920s that you start to see the medium martini recipe being printed. Starting in 1925 its books like L’art du Shaker by Dominique Bristol that begin printing medium martinis. The recipe for the medium martini is exactly the same regardless of the book. 1/2 dry gin, 1/4 dry vermouth, 1/4 sweet vermouth and most do not have a garnish for this drink. The exception to this is the Waldorf-Astoria’s recipe which has an expressed lemon peel and Spanish olive like the dry martini.
I chose to go with the Waldorf-Astoria recipe because I like the lemon oil and olive as a garnish. I think it makes the drink better. If you ignore the garnish the recipe for this cocktail is the exact same from the 1920 to the 1970s (I don’t own a cocktail recipe book from the 1980s). Somewhere after the 1970s this started to be called a perfect martini. I can’t find exactly when or by who but the name perfect martini is just as common today as a medium martini. For all 3 of my martini recipes I chose to go with the Savoy naming structure for martinis because it is the most clear and concise.
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