The Original Martini Cocktail

I first became well-known when my style of Dry Martini came to be regarded as the best version of this classic cocktail available on either side of the Atlantic.

This early notoriety came in 1985 after I served the drink to the veteran American journalist Stanton Delaplane, who returned home and wrote about me in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was the way I produce the coldest, driest Martinis known to man that he liked. (He was also the guy that took the Irish Coffee from Dublin Airport and made it one of the world’s best-loved cocktails, so he knew a thing or two).

But despite my reputation for drinks in modern-day London, I’m heading to Las Vegas later this month to make a Martini in the way it was invented back in the 19th century, a time when people’s palates were quite different, using ingredients they would have recognised. I’m honouring this amazing drink to mark the launch of my latest book, actually an updated edition of my 1997 Classic Cocktails, which pays tribute to the world’s best drinks (available in all good book shops, as they say!).

Back in the late 1800s, they liked their Martinis cold, but they didn’t much care for the dry bit quite as much. The original Martini Cocktail dates back to the mid-19th century, with the first recipe appearing in Victorian bartender Harry Johnson’s manual in 1882. He would have used Old Tom Gin, which is much sweeter than the London Dry style most people are now accustomed to (though which is fast becoming popular again).

For this demonstration, I’ve managed to find a Park and Tilford New York gin dating from around 1905 a Noilly Prat vermouth from around 1890 and orange bitters from the same period, and I’ll be using a recipe from the early 1900’s which calls for 1 part gin, 1 part Noilly Prat and 2 dash of orange bitters.

The sweetness of the drink probably reflected earlier recipes for the Martinez, the grand-daddy of the Martini which mixed gin with large quantities of sweet vermouth and that had appeared in Jerry Thomas’s book in 1862 (and which in turn can be related back to the Fancy Gin Cocktail from the 1850s).

When I make this drink, at my bar ‘Bound by Salvatore’ at The Cromwell Hotel, I think there’ll be a fascinating contrast at play: between the sprawling modern casino complexes that’s the epitome of extravagance and adult entertainment, against the simplicity of a drink created around the same time as Las Vegas itself was being populated. (I’m also pretty sure that Sin City won’t be expecting to be taught how to make what’s become the archetypal American cocktail by an Italian from London).

I keep going back to this drink as it is a fundamental drink from a list of cocktails that I think every drinker should know, understand and respect. Which style do I think is better? It’s totally up to the drinker, and both styles are worthy of testing.

Come to my bar, Salvatore at Playboy Club, London, and me and my staff will gladly walk you through all the styles of the drink, from the original style right through to my Direct Martinis, the kind favoured by Stanton Delaplane, made without any dilution from melting ice cubes. If you think you have what it takes, that is… Salute!

Salvatore’s latest book, Classic Cocktails, is published by Sterling Publishing, New York, 2015.


  • 1 part Gin
  • 1 part Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
  • 2 Dashes Orange Bitters


Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with either a twist of lemon or an olive, as desired, placed in the glass.