Every so often, as the cocktail revival drives steadily on, a new—that is, newly appreciated—Martini enters the bar world zeitgeist. The Alaska. The Tuxedo No. 2. The Turf Club. The it Martini is ever in flux. In wondering what might come next, we looked back at the unsung classics of the first Golden Age of cocktails and the decades that followed to find the best Martinis just waiting to be rediscovered.
Of course, no discussion of the Martini is complete without mentioning the Martinez, the alleged antecedent to the more modern dry Martini. Composed of gin, sweet vermouth, a splash of maraschino and a dash of Angostura bitters, the 19th-century recipe deserves a spot in your rotation as the Martini best suited to fall. Though traditionally made with Old Tom gin, swapping in London dry counters the cloying characteristics of the original, while letting the botanicals of the gin complement the spiced notes of the vermouth.
Not long after its creation, the Martinez was joined by the Bijou in the 1880s, which saw Chartreuse sub in for maraschino for an herbal spin on the sweet Martini. By 1922, the formula was veering even more toward dry—or at least semisweet—with the creation of the Fourth Degree, a London-born mixture of gin, both sweet and dry vermouths and several dashes of absinthe. Think of it as a Perfect Martini, improved.
Indeed, the improved formula—that is, the traditional recipe gussied up with a splash of this or that—informs many early Martinis poised for a comeback. Take for instance, the Allies Cocktail, a 50/50 Martini dressed up with several dashes of savory-spicy kümmel (the drink’s name refers to the alliance of English gin, French vermouth and Russian kümmel), or the Ford Cocktail, which adds Bénédictine into the mix alongside several dashes of orange bitters.
But, of the early Martinis still awaiting their moment in the limelight, there is one that feels more ready than any. An equal-parts blend of gin, Cocchi Americano and fino or manzanilla sherry, the Alberto is low-proof, minimalistic, aperitivo-friendly and patiently waiting for you.