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Martinez Cocktail Recipe

Submitted by on February 10, 2011 – 8:26 pm5 Comments
Like so many cocktails that hail from before 1920, the origins of the Martinez cocktail are a little murky.   It seems clear that this cocktail was in circulation around 1887, if not before.  It was in 1887 that the Martinez Cocktail was first found in print in The Bar-Tenders’ Guide written by famed 19th century barman Jeremiah Thomas who is generally credited for its creation.   Thomas, dubbed ”Professor Jerry,” was one of the most famous and flamboyant barmen of the day and worked throughout the United States and even barnstormed his way across Europe.  He is also credited with the creation of the Blue Blazer cocktail.  The generally accepted version of the story says he created this cocktail for a traveler heading from San Francisco to the town of Martinez, California, about 50 miles away.
martinez1 Martinez Cocktail Recipe

Photo courtesy of SanFranAnnie

The Martinez Cocktail is often credited as the original Martini.  A quick look at both recipes may leave you scratching your head as the only common ingredients are the gin and the lemon twist.  Further, the Martini is a decidedly dry drink whereas the Martinez is much sweeter.  In fact, the original Martinez was believed to be made with Rye whiskey (though this recipe never appears in print) taking the Martinez farther away from what we know as the Martini.

A little history helps in understanding why this belief might be.  The Martinez cocktail hails from the time when most coctails were sweetened with curaçao, gum syrup, Maraschino liqueur and/or sweet vermouth (which was always Italian at that time and referred to as such).  Of the four, the vermouth is the least sweet and began to show favor more and more toward the end of the century in cocktails like the Manhattan.  With the advent of dry vermouth, known at the time as French vermouth, a series of drier concoctions begin to emerge.  By this point, the Martinez, which originally had sweet vermouth and maraschino liqueur, had dropped the maraschino for only sweet vermouth at a 1 to 4 ratio with the gin.  Simply swapping the Italian vermouth for the French vermouth at the same 1 to 4 ratio with the gin gives you the earliest Martinis.  A Martini today can usually be found in a 1 to 7 or 1 to 9 vermouth to gin ratio.
What makes the Martinez Cocktail relevant to today is where it falls, I feel, in the cocktail taste spectrum, especially as it relates to gin cocktails.  Dry gin, as most gins are these days, pair well with citrus and can be found with all sorts of lemon, lime and orange flavors that are then balanced by some form of sweetness (syrups, surgars, curaçao, Gran Marnier or other liqueurs).  Alternately, you find gin presented chilled and almost naked as in a Martini or Pink Gin which highlight the sophisticated use of botanicals typical in dry gins.  The Martinez falls between these two extremes as it is neither dry nor sugary sweet or, for that matter, puckeringly tart.
In the end, the Martinez Cocktail is one I believe is worth knowing and ordering.  Most better establishments with full bars are carrying maraschino (pronounced mara-Skee-no) liqueur these days.  I am also finding a growing number of bartenders who know this one and are eager to make it for a patron with a taste for the classics.  Learn it, know it, love it.
Oh, go prehistoric and try it with rye instead of the gin.  Totally different drink but still great.

The Martinez Cocktail


2 ounces dry gin

1/2 ounce sweet vermouth

1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur

2 dashes Agnostura bitters

1 twist of lemon


Rub the lemon twist along the rim of your cocktail glass.  Fill glass with ice.  Add all ingredients but the lemon twist to an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously to combine. Discard ice from the glass.  Strain cocktail shaker into the chilled cocktail glass.  Twist the lemon over the glass and then drop into the cocktail and serve.  Cheers!

article clipper Martinez Cocktail Recipe

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  • My girlfriend love Martinez Cocktail!

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  • J.J. Howard says:

    I’ve been enjoying the Martinez quite a bit lately. I’m a huge fan of the prohibition era cocktails, but its always good to know your roots. And I’m sure good bartenders secretly smile inside when you order one, in the face of the PBR and Jameson’s and Frenet Braca “shots” crowd.

    Keli Rivers @ the Hotsy Totsy makes the best I’ve had (as with all drinks made by her, lol). Ransom Old Tom gin, Dolin Rouge vermouth, Luxardo Marischino, her special orange bitter mix (I believe it is a blend of Fee’s and Angostura Orange…possibly some Regan’s), and a flamed orange peel for garnish…delightful. If you are a fan of Old Tom gins, seek out the Ransom. Complex, sweet without cloying sugariness, interesting botanicals, and a beautiful burnished brass color…stunning gin.

  • Tim Brice says:

    I, too am a fan of Ms. Rivers. Please also see my ode to the Hotsy Totsy on this site. They do make a good Martinez. A couple of my favorite Martinez spots are Pizzaiollo in Oakland and Globe in San Francisco.

    You and I have similar tastes it seems. I am also describe of Ransom Old Tom Gin. I love it stirred with ice and just a hint of lemon and then served neat.

    Keep the suggestions coming.

  • J.J. Howard says:

    Jerry Thomas’ original Martinez Cocktail recipe was:

    (Use small bar-glass.)

    Take 1 dash of Boker’s bitters.
    2 dashes of Maraschino.
    1 pony of Old Tom gin.
    1 wine-glass of Vermouth.
    2 small lumps of ice.
    Shake up thoroughly, and strain into a large cocktail glass.
    Put a quarter of a slice of lemon in the glass, and serve.
    If the guest prefers it very sweet, add two dashes of gum syrup.

    I was at Ledger’s Liquors on University in Berkeley today, scoping out the bogglingly vast array of bitters available, and saw that Boker’s has been recreated and is now available. It’s based on the original 1853 recipe, more or less (who indeed knows? The stuff went out of production in 1920). I balked at dropping another $18 on a bottle of bitters I might rarely use (I was there for a bottle of The Bitter End Memphis Barbeque Bitters and some Four Roses and ginger beer…BBQ Buck – Hotsy Totsy), but I’m curious to try some soon. Info in the link: http://bokersbitters.co.uk/bokers_ver2.html

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