If there’s one thing to be learned from the Martini renaissance, it’s that everyone is looking for something different when they order the classic cocktail. There are shot-size Martinis and Martinis made by the bottle (or porrón), extra-dry regional takes and fashionably wet variations. Bartenders’ preferred gins for the drink are equally varied.
“My personal taste is for a juniper-forward recipe,” says Laura Maddox, of the classics-focused bar Small Victory in Austin, Texas. Adam Montgomerie, bar manager of the New York outpost of the restaurant Hawksmoor, agrees: “Juniper has to be up front for me when making a proper Martini.” But not everyone feels that a London dry is the best gin for the job. “Although I like a nice London dry gin, I tend to look for something a bit softer and less juniper-forward when it comes to Martinis,” says Ramón Clark, bar manager at Seattle’s Deep Dive. Still other bartenders we surveyed searched for botanicals like citrus, peppercorn and regional flowers at the forefront.
This list of recommended gins to mix into Martinis is less of a definitive ranking, and more of a sample of the gins that bartenders are most excited to introduce to the classic right now. Though the selections vary, there are a few commonalities: Many favor gins with a sense of place, with distinct botanicals that shine on their own and can stand up to vermouth. Each gin should be considered in the right context—whether it’ll be used for a 50/50 or a dirty Martini, for instance. Here are five gins worth seeking out, at every price point.
The Best Gin for Martinis
New York Distilling Company Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin
“Perry’s Tot has a classic juniper backbone but is supported by a balance of bright citrus, warm spices and some subtle earthy notes,” says Kim Vo, bartender at the gin-focused Baltimore bar Dutch Courage. The bottling, which is her preferred budget-friendly gin for Martinis, is produced with domestic ingredients like wildflower honey from New York. With its higher proof, this bottling works particularly well in a 50/50 Martini, according to Vo, as it’s capable of holding its own against a larger portion of vermouth.
- Price: $25 (750 milliliters)
- ABV: 57%
For those who prefer a juniper-forward London dry in their Martinis, Fords is an affordable and exemplary option. At Hawksmoor, the Ultimate Martini—one of the bar’s most popular drinks—is made with this gin, which is Montgomerie’s everyday pick. “It has a classic London dry flavor profile and loads of juniper and citrus up front,” he says. “It makes an incredibly delicious Martini.”
- Price: $31 (750 milliliters)
- ABV: 45%
Sông Cái Việt Nam Floral Gin
Ramón Clark, bar manager at Deep Dive in Seattle, prefers a floral gin when it comes to Martinis. His top pick is Sông Cái Việt Nam’s Floral expression. “For me, this gin checks all of the boxes: amazing botanicals on the nose with a lush palette of jasmine, lemongrass, orange peel and pink peppercorn… an awesome mouthfeel and a lingering flavor with floral notes that aren’t too ‘perfumey.’” The gin has a unique backstory, too: Sông Cái is the first 100 percent Vietnamese-owned and -operated gin company, and its botanicals pay homage to Vietnam’s terroir.
- Price: $40 (700 milliliters)
- ABV: 45%
Gin Mare Mediterranean Gin
When it comes to dirty Martinis, the base spirit shouldn’t go overlooked, according to Vo. “A good dirty Martini would most certainly call for a different gin [than a classic Martini] that can play to the more savory and salty notes,” she says. Gin Mare Mediterranean Gin fits the bill. “Smelling and tasting distinctly like rosemary, basil, thyme and olives, it fits with olive brine perfectly,” she says, and its saline quality can make for a harmoniously umami cocktail.
- Price: $45 (750 milliliters)
- ABV: 43%
Xoriguer Gin de Mahón
Also made with Mediterranean botanicals, Xoriguer Gin de Mahón is favored by Maddox. This bottling is one of the few gins with protected geographical status from the EU because of its production methods, which originated when Menorcans crafted their version of the spirit for British soldiers on the island. Distilled with grapes, rather than grain, this bottling is “extremely full-bodied, with a long finish and a pleasantly perfumed, juniper-forward aroma,” according to Maddox.
- Price: $47 (1 liter)
- ABV: 41%