Gin or vodka? Wet or dry? Shaken or stirred? Olive or twist?

The Martini is loaded with dichotomies, as well as people who have Very Strong Opinions™ about them. A drink order, though, is a matter of personal taste, and as for the Martini, its myriad variables need not all be so black and white.

A stirred Gin Martini may be my manufacturer’s default setting, but whether I opt to hit the ignition and fly into an evening of revelry with a 5:1, or ride on the more casual launch trajectory of a 50:50, is a circumstantial matter. And while there are staunch devotees of either the lemon twist or the olive as a choice of garnish, I happen to enjoy them both with equal gusto.

Get the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.

Why should I even have to choose?

If the only two certain things in life are death and taxes, then indeed, life is too short for such taxing decisions. I’ll take my Martini with an olive and a twist, thank you very much. And I’m not the only one.

All Hail the Olive and Twist Martini

So sue me, I want a bright burst of citrus and a briny snack in the same glass. When I want pepperoni atop a slice of pizza, I don’t have to first weigh the consequences of removing the cheese in turn. Before topping a burger with bacon, I don’t have to evaluate the cost of first removing the beef patty. So why should the combination of the two unimpeachably classic Martini garnishes represent a bridge too far?

We live in a world where squid ink, tomato water, and seaweed are among the near-infinite additions to Martinis. Where the ‘tinis of the ’90s and their neon hues and enormous vessels are in some cases making unironic returns. Where many bars encourage guests to be as specific with their Martini orders as possible, calling out brands for both the spirit and the vermouth, as well as their ratio and the preparation methodology for combining them. Forgive me then, but if I want to have a lemon twist and an olive in the — gasp! — same Martini, I’m no madman.

“That’s what I drink, with both,” says an enthusiastic Chad Spangler, who calls himself a proud bar dad of several Washington, D.C., projects including Service Bar, as well as Causa and Amazonia, a bar and restaurant occupying different spaces in the same building. “The twist is of the utmost importance to give the entry a light, bright citrus aroma. It doesn’t mask, but rather balances and brightens the nose of the drink. The olives then provide a nice content of fat, salt, and brine as an edible ‘chaser’ to the stiff Martini.”

Sophie Bratt, the bar manager at Nobu Hotel London Portman Square, unveiled a Dirty Martini twist on her menu that includes the all-in-one garnish trifecta of olive, twist, and onion. “I’m a massive advocate for multiple garnishes in a Martini,” she says. “A Martini is the perfect canvas to carry freshness, salinity and acidity — all of which I love — so why not add them all to your drink?”

“The olive is still a complementary bar snack one way or the other, so why not have both?”

Her new riff also plays into the concept at Nobu Bar. “Three is seen as a lucky number in Japanese culture, representing creation, time, and the elements of the body,” Bratt says. “So we opt for a triple garnish, using a miso-compressed onion, an olive, and lemon zest. I’m indecisive, so getting the trifecta is perfect for me.”

There’s a time and a place for everything, of course. You may have a go-to Martini order at the ready, but is it the best one under every circumstance? Do you only drink one variety of wine or one type of whiskey, weather, food, mood and environment be damned?

Spangler, for instance, is sure to opt for the Olive and Twist Martini when he suspects a forthcoming Martini may fall short of modern bar world expectations. “It can be critical when the Martini was not crafted by an ace barman, and it’s all too common to see a glug-glug of gin, no vermouth in sight, and a couple of quick stirs with the red-tipped back of a bar soon over chips of ice filling a pint glass halfway, before the drink is carelessly sloshed into an ’80s V glass,” he says.

For Spangler, a well-executed Martini may not need the olive in the same way, but he sees no need to deprive yourself, either. “The olive is still a complementary bar snack one way or the other, so why not have both?”

That’s a crucial point of reference to the potential naysayers among you gnashing your teeth while reading this blasphemous take before heading to a bar this evening and ordering an Old Fashioned made with smoky mezcal and agave syrup, garnished with a grapefruit peel, and finding no problem with it. When sipping on a Martini with a lemon twist, do you turn down the tray of olives which may have appeared on your table as a snack? Likely not. Olives and lemons are a classic flavor combination that can be enjoyed together.

“I love olives with lemon oil or zest grated on them and replicating this with my Martini garnish is a dream,” Bratt says. “I’m that person who would have a Dirty Martini with a twist; the olive adding savory and salinity, while emphasizing the base flavor with the top note and freshness of the lemon that cuts through and heightens the aroma.”

“I think the bar world is protective of the Martini; it’s a drink that encapsulates glamor, elegance, and each serve has a story.”

For Jiří Mališ, bartender at Whisper Sister in Tallinn, Estonia, the Martini’s aesthetics are a major factor in the overall experience of the drink. Therefore, he thinks it’s best displayed with a single garnish residing in the vessel, but recognizes the value of both flavor sources. “Lemon oils are essential, I believe every Martini should have a lemon zest at least expressed,” he says. “Then whether you drop in the lemon zest, or instead, go for the olive, that’s up to the guest.”

Embracing the Olive and Twist Martini

The bright citrus kick of the Olive and Twist Martini entrances as you lift it for a sip, the air filled with delightful, wafting sprays of aromatic lemon oil, while the savory salinity of the olives provides a crucial, substantive note that, in tandem with the vermouth, ensures you have more than a cold glass of gin in your hand. As the bracing effects of the Martini’s first few sips fall into place, alleviating mental fog and stress, anxiety and anguish, and any number of modern-day maladies and ailments, the olive then proceeds to offer a treat at the bottom of your glass, a reward in the form of a pleasant little snack.

The equation of the Martini is not as simple as one olive + one lemon twist = two garnishes. The olive and the lemon twist, when combined together, unlock more in each other than would have been available had they been consumed on their own. Like two great rivals with contrasting styles, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier locked in a ferocious duel of physicality and wits, or perhaps Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal alternating aces and drop shots, each side is forced to be greater and is elevated as a result. Bam, a tantalizing note of lemon pulls you in for a sip! Kapow, a faint but distinct brine encourages you to sip again! Wham, there’s that intoxicating scent in the air. Bang, a snack!

Perhaps a skewered olive placed into an icy cold, bracing gin Martini with a lemon peel already expressed over top is the straw that stirs this particular drink. “I think the bar world is protective of the Martini; it’s a drink that encapsulates glamor, elegance, and each serve has a story,” Bratt says. “But I genuinely just want to make our guests happy — if they want all the garnish, I’m happy to give them all the garnish!”

So order the Martini you want. I’ll skip the squid ink, but don’t expect me to be shy about the Olive ‘n Twist.