Cocktails

The 50/50 Martini, Improved

October 08, 2020

Story: Punch Staff

Photo: Lizzie Munro

Cocktails

The 50/50 Martini, Improved

October 08, 2020

Story: Punch Staff

Art: Lizzie Munro

Five upgraded takes on the two-ingredient template.

Though some question whether the 50/50 Martini deserves to bear the Martini name at all, others consider the equal-parts rendition to be not only the true Martini, from which its austere sibling was derived, but a showcase for nuance and perfectionism. “It reflects equal attention to both flavor and detail,” said Audrey Saunders in a PUNCH story on the topic. No matter where you stand on it, there’s no denying the 50/50’s status as an emblem of modern drinking. In recent years, its rarified position in the cocktail zeitgeist has only been reinforced by the proliferation of 50/50 spinoffs. That is, recipes that strive for even more flavor, and even greater detail—the 50/50 Martini, improved.

There is, of course, historic precedent to the practice of doctoring the Martini template—even the wet Martini template—with a dose of this or that. The Martinez, the supposed progenitor of the classic Martini, is itself an equal-parts cocktail consisting of gin and sweet vermouth with a dash of maraschino thrown in for good measure. The Ford cocktail from the late 19th century, meanwhile, splits the vermouth component with a measure of Benedictine, for a classic Martini that feels right at home on contemporary menus.

Ever since Saunders placed her Fitty-Fitty Martini (equal parts gin and dry vermouth with 2 dashes of orange bitters) on the opening menu of Pegu Club in 2005, bartenders have taken up the torch, proffering their own contributions to the field of lower-proof Martinis. Among the most famous is Julie Reiner’s Gin Blossom. Its aromatic addition of apricot liqueur to gin and sweeter blanc vermouth has made it the house Martini at Brooklyn’s Clover Club since 2009, becoming a modern classic along the way. Kristina Magro’s Suit and Tie follows a similar construction, splitting what would typically be the vermouth half of the cocktail into equal parts manzanilla sherry and lychee liqueur for an upgraded take on the ’90s-era Lychee ’Tini.

Other renditions opt to split the vermouth component with, yes, more vermouth. Phil Ward’s Beefsteak Martini, for example, calls on equal parts blanc and dry vermouth, though the signature character of the drink comes by way of shiso leaves. The ingredients rest on them for about a minute before being stirred and strained, giving the drink a subtle herbal quality. Tom Martinez takes a similar tack in the marriage of dry vermouth and Cocchi Americano in The New New Steady, his 50/50 riff that nods to the dirty Martini with the addition of olive bitters.

But it’s Christine Wiseman’s iteration that stretches the 50/50 to its logical extreme. The spirit portion of the recipe is split between gin and vodka in an apparent ode to the Vesper, while the vermouth component is divided between Luxardo Bitter Bianco and charred onion–infused dry vermouth, a nod to the other classic Martini, the Gibson. Indeed, if adding a modifier to the classic template constitutes an “improvement” in cocktail parlance, consider Wiseman’s Trash-Tini a Martini improved—and then some.

Recipe

Beefsteak Martini

Phil Ward's take on the Steakhouse Martini calls on both dry and bianco vermouth to complement the traditional gin base.

Recipe

Gin Blossom

The Gin Blossom is Julie Reiner's aromatic modern play on the Martini that mashes up apricot eau de vie, bianco vermouth and gin.

Recipe

Trash-Tini

This kitchen-sink Martini variation includes gin, vodka, charred onion-infused dry vermouth, celery shrub and sherry vinegar.

Related Articles