Martini (Sweet) | Classic 1900 George Kappeler Recipe

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History of the Classic 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. By 1900 George Kappeler is making it this way, Waldorf-Astoria is making it this way (they decide to be edgy and add a Spanish olive to theirs), even Harry Johnson updates his recipe to this with his updated 1900 edition. In Britain, Harry Johnson’s original 1888 martini recipe lived on as the Martinez, as seen in Farrow & Jacksons 1912 Recipes of American Drinks and the 1934 Savoy cocktail book.

I used George Kappeler’s recipe and not Harry Johnsons because, even though the 1888 Harry Johnson recipe is older, the George Kappeler one is the first time we see the generally accepted canon sweet martini recipe used. I also feel the George Kappeler version of the original/sweet martini is the best form of it compared to others. As far as names I’m using the Savoy Name for this cocktail as I feel Savoy had the most clear and understandable names for the 3 styles of martini. To George Kappeler and Harry Johnson it was just a martini as the dry and medium variation had not yet been made.

This is only version of the martini up until the 1910s when the dry variation of the martini is invented and starts to get very popular. This martini then becomes known as a sweet martini and a medium sweet version is also made that combines the two. The sweet martini is still in the publics knowledge but nowhere near as popular as the dry martini. In fact most switch the two and think the dry martini is the original and the sweet martini is a more recent variation of the dry martini.

The Most Important Part

The most important part of the original sweet martini is you absolutely have to use old tom gin. If you don’t have old tom gin then there is no point and dry gin is not a substitute. Prepare this like you would a normal martini with a lemon peel and no olive, or add an olive and discard the expressed lemon peel if you want to make it as they did at the Waldorf. And if you don’t have old tom gin then just make something else.


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Martini (Sweet) | Classic 1900 George Kappeler Recipe

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Course: DrinksCuisine: American






Total time



Learn how to make the original Martini.


  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters

  • 1.5 oz Sweet Vermouth

  • 1.5 oz Old Tom Gin


  • Add Ice To Mixing Glass and combine all ingredients in the mixing glass.
  • Stir the ingredients for about 15 seconds to properly chill and dilute the drink.
  • Strain into glass and garnish with an expressed a lemon peel.


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