My recommendation for fancy cocktail bars is to ask the bartender to serve you their BEST cocktail.

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Home Bar: A Martini Your Way, Plus Rules for Ordering at Bars

Home Bar: A Martini Your Way, Plus Rules for Ordering at Bars

Not many drinks lend themselves to so much expected variation as the Martini. James Bond famously preferred his shaken, though classic bartending would suggest that you stir spirit-only cocktails.

Taste is obviously subjective, but try telling that to a busy or indifferent bartender. Depending on the environment of the bar or restaurant, they may not have time or care for much chatter with regards to your order. And while this may be a challenge for some, it often comes down to understanding how to order effectively based on your surroundings.

Home Bar: A Martini Your Way, Plus Rules for Ordering at Bars

You wouldn’t ask for filet mignon at Burger King. It’s the same thing with bars. Keeping it simple at a dive bar is key. Whiskey (with or without ice), beer, or campari and soda. 1 or 2 ingredients gives you the best shot at getting what you’re expecting; 3 is probably pushing the upper bounds.

Home Bar: A Martini Your Way, Plus Rules for Ordering at Bars

My recommendation for fancy cocktail bars is to ask the bartender to serve you their BEST cocktail. Or you can put it in the bartender’s hands by asking them for a “dealer’s choice,” which simply means that the bartender will pick your drink for you. A little guidance on your part may come from the following: preferred spirit, spirit-forward, and/or with citrus. If you can respond to those, you’ll likely find yourself with a delicious cocktail.  

Home Bar: A Martini Your Way, Plus Rules for Ordering at Bars

If you find yourself at a place known for their cocktails and fancy yourself a Martini, the bartender should give you the courtesy to ask how you’d like it. Wet or dry? If you like vermouth, ask for it wet, otherwise ask for it dry. At most dive bars they’ll just give you a rinse of vermouth and you’re basically drinking a glass of gin at this point. If you’re at a really special place, you might even have options on the brand of vermouth.

Lemon or olive garnish? While stock photos would suggest that every Martini is garnished with an olive, I generally feel like they overpower the drink.

Home Bar: A Martini Your Way, Plus Rules for Ordering at Bars

Preference of a certain gin or vodka? I lean towards gins with a heavy dose of juniper, but love all of the different styles of gin available to explore new combinations.  

Home Bar: A Martini Your Way, Plus Rules for Ordering at Bars

Glass

Coupe

Recipe

Classic Martini (version 1):

2 oz gin (I prefer Beefeater)
1 oz dry vermouth (I prefer Dolin)
1 dash of orange bitters (I prefer Regan’s)
Lemon zest garnish

Fifty-Fifty (to mix it up):

1.5 oz gin (I recommend St. George Terrior)
1.5 oz Cocchi Americano
1 dash of orange bitters (I prefer Regans)
Lemon zest garnish

Classic Martini (version 2 – my guilty pleasure):

2 oz gin (I prefer Beefeater)
1 oz dry vermouth (I prefer Dolin)
Olive garnish

Add liquids of your preferred Martini into a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir until chilled (approximately 10-15 seconds). Strain into the glass and serve with your choice of garnish.

Photography and styling by Hannah Levy.

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Posted by Jeffrey Levy

Jeffrey is on a never-ending quest to find the next addition to his home bar. By night, he shakes and stirs as the founding partner of cocktail consulting company JW Hawthorne. By day, he runs a health care software company. Follow him @jfflvy on Instagram.

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