Sexiness, sophistication and class—these three words have always been synonymous with the Martini.

From its long, slender glass to the single green olive you can see from across the room, its image is as classic to American cocktail culture as the Rat Pack. Although most people consider vodka to be the base for a classic Martini, that’s far from where it began. The original recipe called for gin, vermouth, bitters and a lemon peel garnish. It wasn’t until a certain spy famously changed the game and ordered his Martini “shaken, not stirred” that vodka officially came into the picture.

In 1953, James Bond introduced the world to the Vesper Martini in the novel “Casino Royale.” Bond ordered three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet and a lemon peel. The Vesper was purposefully made with both vodka and gin to reflect the double agent for which it was named. This memorable moment would immediately popularize vodka as a main ingredient. Slowly over time, the use of bitters and vermouth waned as people ordered their Martinis “bone dry.” The dirty little olive showed up and forever replaced the lemon peel as the main garnish for the iconic drink.

Bond definitely helped kick off the Martini movement, but the “three martini lunch” really solidified its place in American history. The ability to write off entertainment expenses was introduced in the United States, and so were extended lunches where everyone drank heavily and closed deals (see Mad Men for visuals). Consuming this clear, good-time elixir in the middle of the day was completely encouraged, if it was positive for business. But alas, all good things must come to an end. Although Gerald Ford considered the three Martini lunch “the epitome of American efficiency,” he was defeated by Carter for the presidency, and the support for the tipsy meals lost steam. Employer’s leniency for the extended lunches lessened, but by then the Martini had become a staple in high society.

Since vodka was introduced in America, its popularity has never waned. In fact, it’s one of the most consumed spirits on the planet. Bars and restaurants have completely expanded on the Martini, utilizing everything from espresso beans to serrano chilis. The menu will only continue to grow as endless ingredients are tasted and tested. But the classic Vodka Martini, garnished with a single olive or refreshing lemon twist, definitely stands the test of time. This symbol of sophistication is still one of the most popular orders because you can’t help but feel like a sexy badass spy while sipping one.


The Classic Martini, cocktail with garnish

The Classic Martini

Photo by Zekabala/Shutterstock

Vodka Martini

Ingredients:

  • 2.25 oz. Vodka
  • 1 oz. Dry Vermouth
  • Olives or Lemon Twist (to Garnish)

Preparation: Add vodka and vermouth to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until ice cold and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with olives or a lemon twist.