Five Martinis for the Modern Drinker

Low-lift updates incorporating everything from rose flower water to Guinness.

Perhaps more than any other classic cocktail, the Martini’s original formula–gin, vermouth, bitters and garnish–has been endlessly parsed and scrutinized in pursuit of crafting the perfect version. Subtle tweaks to the core recipe, however, yield an entirely new crop of cocktails that succeed in bringing a modern guise to the timeless construction.

William Elliott’s Martini variation, for example, shows a softer side to the famously austere recipe. Avèze, an herbal gentian liqueur, and the blackcurrant-based cassis mellow out the drink, while a few drops of rose flower water lends a floral finish. By splitting the vermouth component between dry and bianco expressions, Phil Ward’s Beefsteak Martini likewise softens the recipe, while a ghostly herbal aftertaste comes courtesy of a bed of shiso leaves, which Ward rests the mixture on before stirring and straining it into a shiso-rubbed glass.

In his Gulf Coast Martini, Dan Warner sticks close to the gin-based backbone of the original, but ups the bitter quotient. A barspoon of Guinness stout reduction adds a robust bitter note, while a touch of saline adds subtle brininess.

Other variations forgo subtlety altogether. In Jim Kearns’ extravagant F.A.F. Martini (short for “Fancy As Fuck”), a barrel-rested small-batch gin lends an oaky finish and a golden hue to the elevated Martini. The vodka-based Flame of Love, meanwhile, brings even more ostentation to the table. The original version of the 1970s variation, supposedly created for Dean Martin, calls for expressing orange oil through a flame for a theatrical finish. Our adaptation calls for a bit more sherry and the addition of orange bitters, but just as much showmanship.

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