Ordering a martini for the first time can be a daunting task. A bartender worth his or her weight in salt will ask you a slew of questions about how you want your drink prepared, and if you don't know what those questions mean or what to ask for, you're likely going to receive a drink that doesn't suit your taste. We asked a New York Metro Area bartender with ten years experience in the biz, Jamie L, to tell us everything you need to know to get a drink you'll love when ordering a martini for the first time!
The Daily Quirk: What’s the difference in flavor between a gin and vodka martini?
Bartender Jamie L: Gin has a floral flavor and can definitely be an acquired taste from some. Vodka is much smoother, and almost tasteless. You will absolutely taste the difference in alcohol when you drink it as a martini. Your first couple Martinis will be terrible till you figure out the exact combination that works for your taste. Then you’ll learn to love them!
TDQ: Will I taste the difference if I opt for a premium brand over the house?
JL: The premium brands are usually much smoother than the house, but brands are really a personal preference.
TDQ: I’ve heard people ordering martinis wet and dry? What does that mean?”
JL: In a wet martini, the vermouth is shaken up with the alcohol and remains in the drink. A dry martini means the vermouth is swirled on the glass and discarded before the alcohol is added.
TDQ: The bartender just asked me if I like it dirty, please tell me this is a question about my drink…
JL: It does mean your drink! The term”dirty” means you would like olive juice mixed into your drink.
TDQ: I know James Bond likes his martini shaken not stirred, but does it really make a difference?
JL: It does make a difference. Shaking a martini makes it extra cold, but chips of ice break in the tin shaker and pour into the drink. Stirring the drink slightly chills it (depending how long you stir for, of course).
TDQ: Up or on the rocks sounds like climbing jargon. Which do I want?
JL: It’s a personal preference. “On the rocks” means your drink will have ice, whereas “up” would be without. I personally prefer my martini “on the rocks.” As the ice melts, it adds water and dilutes the alcohol a little bit.
TDQ: I thought garnish was the green stuff they throw on your plate to make it look fancy. What does it have to do with my drink?
JL: A cocktail garnish is fruit added to your drink. Typical martini garnishes are either olives or a lemon twist.
TDQ: What if I’m ordering a flavored martini? Do I need to worry about all the jargon or will it come like it says on the menu?
JL: No need to worry about jargon, if it’s on a menu, that’s how it will come. If it’s not on the menu, keep in mind your bartender at a mom n pop place may not know all the fancy martinis that are standard issue in most chain restaurants and even when they do, remember they all won’t taste exactly the same !
TDQ: Any bar etiquette tips?
JL: Bar etiquette … Where should I begin! Well, have your cash and ID ready and know what your ordering before you approach the bar. Wait your turn, no need to yell or whistle, or do fancy balancing acts with your glass. We will get to you as soon as possible!
TDQ: Any tips on tipping the bartender?
JL: When ordering basic drinks or a beer, a dollar per drink is a typical tip , on a mixed drink $1-2 USD is usual. On any service check it’s good measure to tip at least 18/20%. Remember waitstaff works for tips, our minimum wage is $3 USD an hour!
TDQ: And of course I have to ask, what kind of martini do you recommend?
JL: I recommend an extra cold, shaken kettle one martini, with blue cheese stuffed olives and no vermouth. Yummy!
Now that you have the martini know how, you should be able to order like a pro and get a cocktail you love! We would like to thank Jamie L for giving us the martini lowdown and let you know to check back soon for more fun Your First Time articles!
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Managing Editor of The Daily Quirk, lover of books, and best friend to a miniature dachshund. Occasionally tweeting out random thoughts via @AshleyTDQ.
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