Martinis can be anything from sopping wet (2 parts vermouth, 1 part gin) to extra dry (1 part vermouth to 15 parts gin).
Pure, neat spirit is as dry as you can get, so ‘dryness’ is how close to neat spirit the drink is. ‘Wetness’ therefore is how much vermouth or other tasty stuff you have in a drink that’s not spirit. A ‘wet’ Martini is therefore a tasty Martini. A ‘dry’ Martini is very spirit-forward! Dryness is not a sign of quality – you can have very good wet martinis and very bad dry martinis and vice versa.
Most people go for 1:6 (3 shots gin, half a shot of vermouth). For high ABV gins like Navy Strengths, 2:5 is preferred. Others go extra or ‘bone’ dry to 1:15 (3 shots gin, a bar spoon vermouth).
Unfortunately, this is all trial and error: it depends entirely on the gin, the vermouth you're using and your personal preference.
You should always find the ratio using gin and vermouth at room temperature. A Martini starts off ice cold, but by the time you drink the last swig, it’ll be near room temperature, so it’s important to see if you’ll still like the drink when it’s ‘warm’. The warmer it is, the more burn you’ll get from the alcohol and more flavour comes through, but try to hold in your mouth and taste ‘through’ the alcohol. If you’re feeling particularly brave, try swilling around your gum line – new flavours will open up all round your mouth.
One of the joys of appreciating a Martini when drinking it is to see how the gin and vermouth change their flavour profile from ice cold as they warm up to room temperature while drinking it.
The choice of whether to use sweet or dry vermouth is also a question of taste and your preference. Typically, if you want to go dryer than about 1:3, most tend to use a Dry vermouth. If it’s 1:2 or less, then a Sweet vermouth is normally used. But there’s absolutely no rule – it’s perfectly OK to use a Sweet vermouth in ‘dry’ proportions and isn’t uncommon!
We have a neat trick to finding your preferred ratio that doesn’t require you to drink many mediocre Martinis before getting to the right ratio:
- Get a small tasting glass
- Put 2 spoons of vermouth and 1 spoon of gin (at room temperature), smell and taste. This is a ‘sopping wet’ Martini.
- Add in another spoon of gin. This is now a 50:50 martini, smell and taste.
- Another spoon of gin, and it’s now 2:3.
- Another, 2:4 (1:2), Another, 2:5 etc. Repeat by adding 1 spoon of gin each time, and remembering how many spoons you’ve added.
- You’ll get to a point where it becomes too dry for you and therefore, go 1-2 steps back and make your full-sized Martini to the ratio you enjoyed most.
When experimenting, just make tiny martinis in sherry glasses (50ml glasses). This is half to a third of the size of normal martinis and you can drink "2-3 for the price of 1".
Just be sure to remember ratios when scaling down and up from small glasses to big glasses, as no one wants a glass half empty!
This is why we always quote ratio and not absolute measures because it always depends on the size of the glass.