American bar goers have been enjoying Martinis since the nation was in its infancy. However, for a long time, the drink’s definition was far from concrete. Its identity crisis spawned a number of tweaks under a myriad of “Martin” monikers like the Martinez and the Martina. In the late 1800s, the then “Manhattan riff” had an all-too nebulous spec.

Bartenders in New York were making them with whiskey, but folks in Chicago were making them with gin and vermouth — albeit sweet vermouth and Old Tom gin. Cocktail books weren’t really a thing at the time, either, so these recipes got passed around through word of mouth and a loose game of telephone with ingredients and ratios changing constantly. Most of it simply came down to what spirits were available (and affordable) on the American market during any given decade. Then, thanks to immigration, vermouth came over from France and Italy, and by the 1880s, London Dry gin began to push Old Tom gin out of favor. About 10 years later, Spanish imports blessed the nation with olives, further expanding the Martini ingredient repertoire.

Regardless of exact ingredients and ratios, the Martini remains an extremely malleable drink to this day. Unlike its sibling, the Manhattan, a 15-to-1 Gin Martini will still yield a drinkable cocktail. That said, the proper spec has been up for debate since the drink’s inception, but as time goes on, that conversation has grown increasingly moot. The Martini template has little patience for purists, and as our guest today proclaims, “Just drink what you like.”

Today on the “Cocktail College” podcast, we’re revisiting this most iconic of classics and we’re doing so with one of the biggest names in the business. For decades, David Wondrich has been at the forefront of chronicling and uncovering cocktail history. He is a James Beard Award-winning author, the editor-in-chief of the “Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails,” resident Spirits & Cocktails historian and advisor at Flaviar, and co-host of the Fix Me a Drink podcast. It’s Mr. David Wondrich. It’s the “internal temple massage” that is the Martini. Class is in session, folks. Tune in for more.

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David Wondrich’s Martini Recipe


  • 3 parts London Dry gin, such as Tanqueray
  • 1 part dry vermouth, such as Noilly Prat
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Garnish: lemon twist


  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Stir until cold and strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass.
  3. Garnish with a lemon twist.