For a drink with only two ingredients, the martini inspires a disproportional level of disagreement.
Its exact origins still a matter of dispute, the beloved combination of dry vermouth and clear liquor tends to attract purists who insist fiercely on their own particular dogma: gin over vodka; a lemon twist instead of olives; stirred, not shaken; don't you dare go overboard on the vermouth.
A world without rules
But bartenders are beginning to push back against such rigid ideas about the 20th-century classic. "My philosophy is, there's too many rules," said Alessandro Palazzi, bar manager at Dukes, the tony London mecca that's said to be where author Ian Fleming devised James Bond's martini order.
Today, a section on the Dukes menu advises customers not to get caught up in custom and simply order a version that excites their taste buds.
One variation in particular has been stealing the spotlight: the 50/50. It's a refreshing, easy-drinking take that calls for equal parts gin and dry vermouth instead of the two-parts-to-one specifications of the traditional recipe. For vermouth detractors-such as Winston Churchill, who once said that all the vermouth his martini needed was a bow in the direction of France, where much of the product is made-this formula might seem like apostasy.
Less alcohol isn't bad
Modern drinkers, however, are trending toward lower-alcohol cocktails and showing renewed interest in fortified wines like vermouth. Whereas drier martini versions have that pronounced boozy burn, the "wetter" 50/50 conceals its ABV beneath a rich, flavourful botanical profile that evokes rose petal, dried herbs, and citrus. The higher proportion of vermouth gives it a lush texture-and a clearer head in the morning.
The 50/50 is how Palazzi himself often prefers it. "It's a beautiful drink," he said, the closest he comes to an endorsement. His lone rule? Savour the flavours of your martini in the same way you would a glass of wine, no matter your recipe preference. "You should take your time with it," he said.
The 50/50 Martini Recipe
- 44 mls gin (your preference, though philistines can also use vodka)
- 44 mls dry vermouth (we recommend Dolin Dry)
- 1 lemon
Combine in a mixing glass, fill with ice, and stir until chilled. Strain into a coupe or martini glass, serve up with a lemon twist.