What Makes a Martini Extra Dry?

By Nicholas DeMarino

The martini is a popular cocktail primarily composed of gin and dry vermouth with at least two measures gin for every measure of dry vermouth. It is usually served chilled in a conical-stemmed glass and garnished with a green olive or lemon peel twist. There are many variations of this basic recipe, and it has undergone massive revision over time. An "extra-dry martini" is one with little to no dry vermouth.

What Makes a Martini Extra Dry?


The martini has a long history obscured by legend and myth. Although its exact origins are unknown, many attribute the drink to Jerry Thomas, a bartender who published the recipe in the 1887 edition of his influential book, "The Bar-tender's Guide." The martini is largely cited as an American drink, although several theories place its origin in Europe. Its recipe has changed over time, and the term "martini" covers an array of cocktails, some of which do not include gin or dry vermouth. Vodka is a popular substitute for gin in some places, although it's usually denoted as a "vodka martini" on menus. The origins of dry martinis are even less clear. The term is usually used to order a martini with only a few drops of vermouth. An extra-dry martini is a hyperbolic expression usually used to order a martini without any vermouth.


While many recipes exist, a common one is as follows: Pour 2 oz. of gin and about 1 oz. of dry vermouth into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes. Stir for half a minute, strain it into a chilled cocktail glass, add a dash of orange or Angostura bitters if desired, and garnish with one green olive or a lemon peel twist. Alternatives include equal parts sweet and dry vermouth (perfect martini), 50-50 (equal parts gin and vermouth), vodka (in lieu of gin), olive brine (dirty) and a cocktail onion garnish (Gibson). Some prefer their martinis shaken, not stirred.

"Extra Dry"

More Gin, More Dry

A dry martini is one that has very little vermouth. As such, an "extra-dry" martini usually denotes a drink with no vermouth. Other terms for this include "bone dry" and "desert martini." Some bartenders put the cap on the vermouth and symbolically pour it over the drink when preparing an extra dry martini.


The history, ingredients and preparation of a martini are subject to debate. Some believe a true martini has a 2:1 gin-to-dry vermouth ratio and can only be garnished with an olive. The logic behind shaking a martini instead of stirring is that this avoids "bruising the gin," an aerating process that some believe sharpens the taste. Many traditionalists admonish the substitution of vodka for gin in martinis.

Popular Culture

Martinis are quite popular, and have been endorsed by an array of writers and politicians. Among some of the most famous are Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill and the fictional James Bond. There are many famous quotes about martinis, including poems, limericks, and double entendres.