Writer and bon vivant Kingsley Amis was fond of pre-batching his Martini. In his cheeky 1973 guide, On Drink, he reveals he likes to make jugs of Martini at the rate of around 12- to 15-to-1, gin to vermouth, for his parties.
Bartenders today have become less cavalier about their ratios and rate of dilution, but they’re still preparing Martinis beforehand. And that’s because there are myriad benefits to the approach.
“The easiest way to make the perfect Martini is not to make it at all, and instead simply pour a perfect, ready-to-drink Martini from a bottle and into your glass,” explains Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge, Plymouth Gin’s Global Brand Ambassador.
How to Make a Bottled Martini
To make your own bottled Martini, follow these steps:
- Select your storage vessel. Repurposed wine or soda bottles, or even Champagne splits, work well, boiling them beforehand to prevent any bacteria from lingering.
- Choose your Martini ratio. A dry Martini calls for 10-to-7.75-to-1 ratio, while an off-dry ratio would be 5-to-4-to-1, gin to dry vermouth to water. Yes, water. The most beautiful thing about the bottled Martini is the need to no longer rely on stirring ice to dilute. (Feel free to bottle a boozier Martini; just reduce the water and be sure to keep the gin and dry vermouth ratios the same.)
- Pour. Funnel the batch into bottles, cap and chill in the freezer for 60 to 90 minutes before using.
- Serve. When ready to serve, simply pour into chilled glasses and garnish.
Though various forms of bartender-batched, commercially-sold and even homemade bottled Martinis aren’t new, there’s been a new groundswell of support for the practice of late. This is especially true in New York, where cocktail bars like Sauvage are pre-batching and individually bottling Martinis. It’s not born of laziness or gimmickry: While many folks enjoy the freshness, ritual and visual delight of a made-to-order Martini, these bars think that botting Martinis makes them drink better—for three key reasons.
“There’s going to be less dilution, because you can add just the right amount of water,” explains Stephanie Andrews, the bar manager at Billy Sunday in Chicago. There, she pre-batches cocktails in both bottles and on tap. “It’s really a wonderful way to drink.”
Likewise, because dilution in a bottled Martini is created by strict water measurement, and not by stirring or shaking, the drink can be made colder. Freezing also leads to a superior mouthfeel once the cocktail is finally poured, one that’s richer and more velvety.
But who cares about dilution, chill level and mouthfeel if the cocktail doesn’t taste any good? Luckily, a bottled Martini can actually be better rounded than its stirred counterpart, with a more integrated flavor profile and less alcoholic heat. Explains Hamilton-Mudge, “You can bottle it days in advance, as time spent in the bottle will only soften and round your Martini, in the same way flavors further integrate during slow cooking.”
It’s great for improving bar service as well, freeing staff to focus on other bar issues and customer needs. At Billy Sunday, pre-batched cocktails enable just-seated customers to “awaken their palate,” says Andrews. It’s something they can easily order with no fuss while studying the rest of an esoteric menu to decide on a future drink.
An even more complex version of the bottled Martini would be the barrel-aged one, an oddball variant that is nevertheless gaining traction thanks to avant-garde bartenders like Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Portland’s Clyde Common. Out of the small barrel, the Martini will have a darker, more golden hue. It will be more flavor-packed, woodier, of course, but mellower too, perhaps owing to slight oxidization. It will still very much be a Martini.
These pre-batching practices are not without controversy, however. When the luxe bar The Grill announced plans to open with a pre-batched Martini—served from Christofle crystal decanters—plenty in and around the industry were up in arms. Numerous consumers scoffed at the idea of paying $18 for two basic ingredients that had already been thrown together beforehand, while famed bar owner Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club tweeted that she was “no fan of batched martinis,” thinking their typical preparation a ritual that should remain sacred.
In spite of the occasional backlash, the trend is clearly here to stay. The Grill’s Martini almost instantly became iconic, and certainly Instagrammable, and more bars have begun offering their own versions. It’s something home bartenders should likewise try.
“This method is a great idea when you are entertaining guests and don’t want to get stuck mixing Martinis for everyone all night,” notes Hamilton-Mudge. “The only downside is, you have to decide how everyone is going to drink their Martinis that night.”