Notes on a Vintage Vodka Martini Recipe From 1960

Updated on May 31, 2017

The Classic Martini

The Classic Martini in all its glory
The Classic Martini in all its glory | Source

How to Make the Perfect 1960s Vodka Martini

Here's the recipe for the perfect vodka martini as I learned to make it back in the day. I haven't drunk one of these things in many years, but I used to love them in the days when I was young and both my head and stomach were strong and I still know how to rustle up a batch for friends on a moment's notice. Here's how it's done.

The ingredients are vodka and vermouth. The amounts are for one serving. Obviously double them for two, triple for three servings, and so fourth. The ratio is five vodkas to one vermouth. You can change this if you like. Four to one makes for a sweeter, less rough drink and lets the vermouth come through more. You can vary the proportions to suit personal taste. Three to one is the classic proportion, but in my opinion, five to one is the perfect ratio for a really dry vodka martini.

Ingredients

  • vodka
  • dry white vermouth
  • ice cubes
  • lemon twist or green olive, as garnish

Instructions

  1. Using a standard jigger, pour three measures of vodka to one measure of vermouth for each person to be served into a glass pitcher or large mixing glass. For shaken martini's ( a la James Bond) substitute a metal cocktail shaker for the glass pitcher.
  2. Add ice cubes and either stir or shake your martinis to thoroughly blend the ingredients. Don't mix for too long or the melting ice cubes will dilute the martini too much( heaven forbid)
  3. Strain the drink into a chilled stemmed martini glass and add a bit of lemon zest(my favorite) or a green olive and drink a toast to old times.
  4. Vodka martinis are good "on the rocks" too. Instead of using a stemmed martini glass, fill an Old Fashioned glass with ice and strain the drink into it. Lemon is the usual garnish for on the rocks vodka martinis, but if you prefer an olive, go for it.

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Origins and History of the Classic Martini

The origins of the martini are unclear. Drinks similar to it were around in the late nIneteenth century. One story has it that a bartender in San Francisco named Martinez used sweet Italian vermouth to cut rotgut gin for his customers and the drink he invented was dubbed the martini. Another tale is that the drink originated in the town of Martinez, California.

Wherever the name came from, it was Prohibition and the advent of the speakeasy that gave the classic gin martini its popularity and its claim to fame. Speakeasy customers often asked for a "martini" because the vermouth cut the taste of bad bathtub gin and made for a better taste experience, while packing a powerful punch.

The vintage vodka martini recipe given here came along later and was the iconic cocktail of the 1960s. It went out of fashion in the 1970s and '80s, when Americans became more interested in wine and beer than spirits.

Vodka Martini, Shaken NOT Stirred

Vintage Smirnoff vodka ad with Zsa Zsa Gabor
Vintage Smirnoff vodka ad with Zsa Zsa Gabor | Source

Poem to Martinis

A famous bit of doggerel from the well-sharpened tongue of Dorothy Parker.

Martinis

I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
Three and I’m under the table,
Four and I’m under my host.

-- Dorothy Parker

The Birth of the Vodka Martini

In the " Roaring Twenties", during Prohibition, diluting bathtub gin with dry vermouth, and serving the mixture straight up in a stemmed cocktail glass garnished with a green olive, made bad quality gin palatable and the speakeasy crowd drunker faster. The gin martini became a speakeasy favorite. Once Prohibition was repealed and good quality gin again became available, the martini became even more popular. Check out what people are drinking in all those old Hollywood films where everybody is holding a cocktail glass in one hand and smoking a cigarette in a long holder with the other.

In the mid-1950s, when Smirnoff first began to market vodka to Americans, the vodka martini was introduced, and soon left the classic gin martini in the dust. The Smirnoff marketing plan was to ride the popularity of the martini to profitability by getting Americans to substitute vodka for the gin they were accustomed to making martinis with. A rather clever ad campaign centered around the fact that vodka didn't leave a telltale smell on the drinker's breath the way gin did, and Americans just "lapped it up" ( to coin a phrase)

"Smirnoff vodka leaves you breathless" became the company's tagline and the vodka martini became the drink of choice for the would-be movers and shakers of the 1950s. By the 1960s, executives were enjoying "three vodka martini lunches" and the cocktail party was the preferred way of suburban socializing for the upwardly mobile. The '60s martini was made with vodka more often than gin, drunk "straight up" or "on the rocks" and garnished with an olive, a twist of lemon, or a small cocktail onion (in which case it was called a Gibson, not a Martini).

There were numerous nuances in the making of the Martini and a bartender who could manage a cocktail shaker and strainer with a flourish was in demand. As James Bond, aka 007, taught us, the really hip drinker wanted a martini that was " shaken not stirred" as the shaking theoretically diluted the spirits less than stirring them around in a mixing glass and didn't bruise the vodka ( HA!!!) It's all a matter of personal taste, or more accurately, personal affectation.

The Martini Renaissance

The martini, the vodka martini in particular, is making a comeback these days with a new generation of cocktail drinkers. Contemporary martini drinkers have come up with a whole host of new adaptations,

As a purist, I have to say that I take a dim view of apple, peach, blueberry and other mad martinis that have proliferated recently. There is something odd about a blue martini or one made with mandarin oranges and açai berries. I read somewhere recently that some bartender with an internet meme fetish invented a bacontini. What is the world coming to, anyway?

For my money you just can't beat the old classic vodka martini—the drink that got us all through the '60s and that many of us remember fondly. No wonder a whole new generation has embraced it with gusto. Besides it goes perfectly with all that mid-century modern furniture that my generation has a hard time feeling nostalgic about. Never mind. Made right and sipped slowly, there isn't a better cocktail in the world.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        19 months ago from Central New Jersey

        Right you are Zeijko--my bad. Three to one is the ratio and I've made the change in the ingredient list.

      • profile image

        Zeljko 

        19 months ago

        The crucial data in this recipe is "...THREE measures of vodka to ONE measure of vermouth...", but 2 1/2 oz of vodka to 1/2 oz of vermouth is...5:1!!! Obviously, there is a mistake in proportions of ingredients...vodka should be 1 1/2 oz...

      • GetCocktails profile image

        GetCocktails com 

        2 years ago from On the internet

        It's never getting old!

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        2 years ago from Central New Jersey

        oops Jdw1976, arithmetic was never my strong suit, especially when it comes to martinis.....you are right.... it is 5 to one, not 3 to 1 and that's the way I used to make and drink them --dry dry dry :-) Thanks for pointing out the discrepancy. I think the standard back in the day was always three to one but that was way too much vermouth for me so I made them stronger. The proportions are always a matter of personal taste in the end. Thanks for dropping by and reading and commenting. Much appreciated.

      • profile image

        jdw1976 

        2 years ago

        Hello - perhaps I misread or misunderstood the recipe. If so, please forgive me. I see that a ratio of 3:1 is mentioned, but the recipe appears to be 5:1. Other than that, thanks for the good read!

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        2 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Hi Anne... glad you liked the colorful history and good luck with your comparison. It should be fun whatever the results. Thanks for stopping by and reading and commenting.

      • Anne Harrison profile image

        Anne Harrison 

        2 years ago from Australia

        An interesting tale - I never knew martinis rose to prominence during Prohabition. For all of Bond's demands, I believe stirring is more gentlr to the alcohol, and so bruises it less. Might have to try a comparison, now I have the receipe!

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        2 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Salud, Princessa and thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment. Always nice to see you.

      • Princessa profile image

        Wendy Iturrizaga 

        2 years ago from France

        Martini is one of my favorite drinks, I was amazed my friends didn't know about it here in my French town. After they tried it, however, they have embraced it dearly :-) after all, what is not to like about a Martini? Cheers Robie!

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        4 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Thanks for the great comment, Peg--I love vintage glassware and barware of all kinds. Your crystal martini pitcher sounds like quite a find .... and I bet lemonade or iced tea would work in it as well as martinis, especially in terms of keeping a clear head LOL. Glad you enjoyed the hub. It's always nice to see you.

      • PegCole17 profile image

        Peg Cole 

        4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

        The recipe sounds easy enough and I love that it's from the 60s. Ah, to be young enough to enjoy a few and not worry about the morning after. I did try an Apple-tini (or two) a few years back and they certainly pack a wallop. Yipes. Never again. Strangely enough, I found a crystal glass martini pitcher at the thrift store recently and when I went back, two beautiful martini glasses. They're just for decoration at my house anymore but I still love them. Nice write up and history.

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        5 years ago from Central New Jersey

        I haven't had a martini in more than 30 years but I still think they are an elegant cocktail with an interesting history that mirrors the history of alcohol in America. Thanks for stopping by, Beth

      • bethperry profile image

        Beth Perry 

        5 years ago from Tennesee

        I really enjoyed the history you provided here! So cool to know.

        When I was young I enjoyed Martini's but it has been a long time since I had one. This Hub makes me tempted to have one again!

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        5 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Cheers, Lilleyth-- olive, lemon twist, whatever-- those were the days. Glad you enjoyed the hub and I too love Dorothy and I know she loved martinis too:-)

      • Lilleyth profile image

        Suzanne Sheffield 

        5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

        Loved this Hub. A vodka martini please, with olives, straight up...Dorothy is my muse.

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        5 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Glad you enjoyed it ST-- the words " vodka martini on the rocks with a twist" still roll trippingly off my tongue, although it has been many years since I have actually had one:-) Thanks for stopping by

      • Sally's Trove profile image

        Sherri 

        5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        I remember those three-martini lunches (they were still popular in the early 70s). It seemed so innocent at the time, I guess because "everyone was doing it." Somehow we managed to put a few more hours in at the office afterwards, but I'm pretty sure they weren't what you'd call "quality" hours.

        I didn't know the Smirnoff history. Those clever ad men! Never saw the Dorothy Parker doggerel, either. Love it! Thanks, Robie, for a very interesting and spirited read, as always. :)

      • Mhatter99 profile image

        Martin Kloess 

        6 years ago from San Francisco

        Aah... memories... but for me it was the 70s. Thank you for this.

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        6 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Always a pleasure to see you suzette and may I compliment you on your good taste in drinks AND in hubs LOL-- glad you stopped by and thanks for the comment-- cheers!

      • suzettenaples profile image

        Suzette Walker 

        6 years ago from Taos, NM

        I'm with you - the classic vodka martini all the way. I do not like all those sweet "dessert" type martinis. And I like my martini dry! What a great article and so enjoyeable to read and packed with interesting information. Thanks so much!

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        6 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Well hi Nell Rose--good to see you. I think the very idea of a bacontini would make the old guard at the Algonquin Hotel blanche-- Dorothy Parker most of all:-) Whatever. This was a fun hub to research and write even though I cannot imagine anything more revolting than bacon soaked vodka LOL

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 

        6 years ago from England

        I was loving this, imagining the taste, then I got to the bacon! haha! sounds great and anything with vodka is fine by me!

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        6 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Glad you enjoyed the hub, Docmo and thanks for leaving such a nice comment. We traditionailsts have to stick together( at least when it comes to martinis:-))

      • Docmo profile image

        Mohan Kumar 

        6 years ago from UK

        One of my favourite drinks - I didn't know it's history - I love this clear and easy to follow recipe hub packed with historical details. Well done robie2. Like you I am not keen on the modern twists. The classics martini is elegant and clean, immensely drinkable. Thanks for sharing . Voted up and useful.

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        6 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Cheers Vincent:-) No more martinis for me I fear I did my share of shaking and stirring back in the day. But it is a delightful and beautiful drink with an interesting past. Enjoy yours shaken and stirred, on the rocks or straight up -- whatever :-)))

        Always good to see you and thanks for stopping by.

      • profile image

        Vincent Moore 

        6 years ago

        I think I had one to many " Shaken on stirred"?? LOL

      • profile image

        Vincent Moore 

        6 years ago

        Yes indeed "Shaken on stirred" please. An interesting tale of how the wonderful Martini became renowned drink of it's time. I think it's time to pour myself one or even two maybe? care to join me:-)

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        6 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Thanks wrenfrost56-- glad you enjoyed the hub and Dorothy Parker. She was a very funny lady who drank a lot of martinis ( and considering the poem, I bet she got invited to a lot of parties too:-))

      • wrenfrost56 profile image

        wrenfrost56 

        6 years ago from U.K.

        Ace hub, great recipe and I love the Parker poem. :D

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        6 years ago from Central New Jersey

        ooops-- just noticed my typo. That is liked, not lied, Kaili-- sorry

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        6 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Glad you lied it Kaili-- Martinis are definitely for sipping not gulping. They pack quite a wallup. Thanks for stopping by. Nice to see you and thanks too for following me. I'm following you back now and looking forward to reading your hubs

      • Kaili Bisson profile image

        Kaili Bisson 

        6 years ago from Canada

        Wonderful Hub! I like martinis when I want to sip something slowly...

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        6 years ago from Central New Jersey

        Cheers, Kitty and Simone. Glad you liked the hub. Kitty I'm with you and Frieda when it comes to Bacontinis. Somebody is making them with Acai berries in them too-- Give me a break!!!

        And yes, Simone--A bartender named Martinez in San Francisco is said to have made the first martini in 1860. I bet the gold rush had something to do with it too.

      • Simone Smith profile image

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        6 years ago from San Francisco

        Oh, I love the idea of martinis having their origins in San Francisco! What a fascinating Hub. Love it!

      • kittythedreamer profile image

        Nicole Canfield 

        6 years ago from Summerland

        I love martinis, but Frieda has it right, not too sure about the bacon martini! Yikes. But this hub was awesome...thanks for sharing this martini recipe with us!

      • robie2 profile imageAUTHOR

        Roberta Kyle 

        6 years ago from Central New Jersey

        haha Frieda-- go for it. double oh seven is my kind of guy for sure. And I'm sure he'll take you up on your offer. Can you believe " bacontinis"??? noooooooooonot that!!!

      • Frieda Babbley profile image

        Frieda Babbley 

        6 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

        Not so sure I'm too keen on that bacon vodka martini... Simple recipe. Great history. And of course, no martini would be complete without Bond, James Bond. I think I'll invite him over for one. Think he'll take me up on that? If I promise to shake and not stir?

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