we stood at the bar
after the poetry reading
with a large martini
walking by overhearing
how much she loved
We all agreed
they were delicious
And changed the subject
-C. O. McCauley
Oh, Martini, how we love you so! Such a simple drink: just vermouth and vodka or gin. Add olive or a lemon twist, and enjoy. You can make a Martini as complicated as you want. But at the heart, these simple ingredients are all you need for a simple, sexy, and sophisticated drink.
If you are a vodka lover and want to enjoy your Martini with vodka, where should you begin? Not all vodkas are created equal, and you’ll want to pick out a vodka that will best complement the kind of Martini you intend to make. We have the best choices for you, below. We have broken out our list by Martini type.
The following list includes the most popular, or traditional, types of Martinis. (We lumped all of the fruit Martinis into one category.)
A “Dry” Martini indicates that very little vermouth has been added to the cocktail. Typically a Martini includes six parts vodka (or gin) to one part vermouth. If you order an “Extra Dry” Martini, you’ll get even less vermouth—typically, just a splash.
A “Dirty” Martini is a dry Martini with a splash of olive brine. A green olive is typically used as a garnish.
A “Gibson” Martini is like a Dirty Martini, but it uses a cocktail onion instead of an olive. A cocktail onion is a small pearl onion that has been pickled in a brine (salt) solution with small amounts of turmeric and paprika. An onion is, of course, included as garnish.
A “Vesper” Martini is made of vodka AND gin and includes Lillet Blonde. Lillet is an aperitif wine made with Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes and a blend of citrus liqueurs. If you want to be like James Bond, you will want to use vodka made by Gordons.
A “Cosmopolitan” Martini is made from a combination of vodka, cranberry juice, triple sec, and fresh lime juice.
A “French” Martini includes vodka and Chambord raspberry liqueur.
The others are fairly self-explanatory, with the descriptions right in the title of the drink.
The best overall Martini vodka, which works with most of the Martinis listed above, is elit, or Stoli Elit—its previous name. At about $40 a bottle, it’s considered an “ultra-luxury vodka.” It’s manufactured for sipping straight, or for mixing in basic Martini drinks. It’s a smooth, clean, and fairly smell-less spirit that has a creamy feel and the very faintest hint of grain and black pepper.
Runner Up: Absolut Elyx
The best pick for a dry Martini is Hangar 1 Vodka. At about $35 a bottle, it is thick and oily on the tongue, almost creamy in texture. It doesn’t burn going down, and it smells ever so faintly of Asian pear and honeysuckle. It’s deliciously mixed as well as sipped neat.
Runner Up: Chopin Rye Vodka
Our top pick is Kástra Elión Vodka. Made in Greece and acquired for about $40, this may be harder to find at a local beverage store. This is a spirit that is positively made to be combined with green Greek olives, to the point of it being a quasi-religious experience. Unsurprisingly, it’s made with Greek olives and distilled for a perfect salinity and smooth, buttery finish. It has peppery undertones.
Runner Up: Chopin Rye Vodka
Absolut Citron gets our pick because a Cosmo made with citrus-flavored vodka is our preferred choice. This spirit doesn’t contain any added sugars or flavoring; it’s made from real lemons for a smooth and mellow feel, with lemon and lime character. In addition to being the best Cosmo vodka, it’s also the best choice for a Lemon Drop Martini. At $20 a bottle, it’s an affordable choice.
Runner Up: Ketel One Citroen
At about $90 a bottle, Beluga Gold Line Vodka is a real splurge and is an excellent choice for a special occasion. This spirit is made from rice extract and Rhodiola rose extract. It would be criminal to mix this drink with a fruity martini. If you are going to splurge, sip it neat or limit it to a dry or dirty Martini. The spirit is easy to sip straight, and it has a pleasant sweetness that complements its somewhat thick body.
Runner Up: Russian Standard (Owners of vodka.com, because it’s THAT standard.)
Smógory Forest by Belvedere Vodka gets the pick for best European vodka. Crafted in Poland, and found for about $40 a bottle, this spirit is often described as “botanical.” The distillery is proud of its earthy roots. Tasters will experience salted caramel, cereal, and a touch of honey.
Runner Up: Grey Goose
Haku Vodka is made from Japanese white rice. Yes, vodka can be made from rice, as well as other grains! But isn’t liquor made from rice called….sake? Not at all! They both start out the same, but sake stays in the initial fermentation stage (like beer). Vodka, however, gets distilled until it reaches a magic 191 proof point. Because of the rice, Haku Vodka has a natural sweetness inherent in the spirit. The bamboo charcoal filtration process also helps to create a lingering sweetness. This interesting choice will set you back about $35 a bottle.
If you want to make a vodka Martini and have never done so before, it’s easy to start! Just use six parts vodka to one part dry vermouth. You can stir the mixture, or you can shake it up in a cocktail shaker. Once you get the basics down, you can start experimenting by adding other ingredients slowly and subtly.
I thought all vodka was made from potatoes! Not so! Vodka can be made from just about any starchy carbohydrate. The only qualification that makes it “vodka” is that the spirit is distilled until it reaches 190 proof of alcohol.
If you want a vodka with more character, choose one made with potatoes. Some famous brands that use potatoes as their base include Boyd & Blair, Woody Creek, Monopolowa, Chase, and Blue Ice. Many people would describe potato vodka as “full of earthy, nutty flavor.”
If you want a vodka that blends well in a cocktail, grain vodkas are a better choice. Some famous brands that use grains like wheat and barley include Grey Goose, Smirnoff, Stolichnaya, and Ketel One.
To break that list down a little further, some wheat-based vodkas include Russian Standard, Grey Goose, Oyo, Ketel One, Chopin, Absolut, and Svedka.
Some famous rye grain-based vodka brands include Chopin, Belvedere, Potocki, and Sobieski.
Titos is a fairly common vodka brand that utilizes corn as its base.
Nope! Aging vodka doesn’t matter. It doesn’t improve with age. That’s because the typical column distillation process takes away ALL the “innate funk” of the spirit. So there’s nothing left in the liquid to age or refine.
Martinis are wonderfully simple cocktails that are easy to master. Decide what kind of Martini you tend to prefer—dry, olivey, fruity, etc. Now, pick an excellent vodka that will bring out the best in your cocktail. Try our selections for an optimal cocktail, and you will be wowing your friends and family in no time! A vodka Martini is an excellent choice if you are watching your calories and still want to enjoy a night out with your friends. While not zero-calorie, it’s a lower-calorie choice than many other bar favorites.