Everyone knows what a martini is. Even if you aren’t fully aware of the sum of its parts, the combination of a slim, funnel shaped glass, clear liquid and a green olive has seared itself in our collective consciousness. We have James Bond and countless other metropolitan movies to thank for that.

Despite the simplicity in appearance, martinis are a complex breed, and can be adjusted to accommodate a variety of preferences. You’ve got those who like them dirty, wet, dry, flavoured and beyond. Though the standard mix is really just one part vermouth to six parts gin or vodka, the way it’s mixed, and what is added to it plays a massive role in defining whether you’ve got a passable or crap martini.

Before you try to DIY this cocktail, or order it “shaken, not stirred” at a bar, let the head bartenders at Atlas, Morton’s Bar, and Martini Bar at Mezza9 tell you exactly what makes a good martini.

Roman Foltán, Atlas

atlas bar how to make a martini
Left: Atlas Martini | Right: Roman Foltán

Head bartender, Roman Foltán , was previously from four-time World’s Best Bar winner, Artesian at the Langham. The Czech native created one of the bar’s signature cocktails, the Atlas Martini, with the intention of introducing Singaporeans to martini culture with a more approachable, slightly sweeter cocktail. With Atlas being a gin-focused bar as well, you could make a pretty solid case that Foltán’s an authority on the subject.

Lifestyle Asia (LSA): What is your go-to martini recipe?

Roman Foltán (RF): I really like the one I made for Atlas, which is 60ml Ford’s Gin, 15ml of Mancino Bianco vermouth, two dashes of orange bitters, and five dashes of champagne vinegar. We swapped out a drier vermouth with Marcino Bianco, which is sweeter.

LSA: Do you have any preferred gins and vermouths you use to craft your martini of choice? 

RF: I’d go for a Sipsmith London Dry, as it’s a very classic style of gin with a dominant aftertaste of juniper berries, and pair it with either Noilly Prat or Mancino Secco vermouth.

LSA: Vermouth in a martini is always a contentious subject, with some people liking it drier, or wetter. What’s your take on vermouth’s place in a martini?

RF: It’s all about personal preference. Each person has a different palate and likes their martini a certain way. I like a ratio of 1:1 for gin and vermouth, cos I enjoy it really wet.

Atlas, Parkview Square, 600 North Bridge Road, Singapore 188778, +65 6396 4466. Closed on Sundays.

Diaz Lim, Martini Bar and Party Room at Mezza9

If there’s any bar in Singapore that has clout over the martini, it’s a bar named after the cocktail. Martini Bar in Grand Hyatt’s Mezza9 has been in Singapore longer than your average cocktail bar, and has over 30 variants of the drink on the menu. Martini Bar is definitely the place to be to discover everything about the classic.

how to make a martini
Left: Rick’s Cucumber | Right: Diaz Lim

LSA: What are the three things that make a good martini?

Diaz Lim (DL): Good ice, quality gin or vodka, and vermouth. Just like in cooking, you should taste your ingredients separately and try to pair them thoughtfully. Vermouth is crucial, as it mellows down the ruggedness of the spirit and adds a pleasant complexity to the finished product. Choosing the right vermouth is one of the most important parts of crafting an elegant martini.

LSA: What kind of ice should one opt for?

DL: The ice needs to be extremely cold and clear. This not only gives the finished product its crispness, but it also helps in ensuring the drink isn’t over diluted. Large, clear ice blocks are what you should be after. The clearer the ice, the better. This is because it contains less oxygen, which makes it melt slower, and thus reduces dilution.

LSA: What are your favourite gins to use in a martini?

DL: I have a few actually. For gins, I have a large crush on Paper Lantern. It is so beautiful, and contains so many powerful botanicals. What I love most about it though, is that it is a local product crafted out of Thailand, and the owners are based here in Singapore.

LSA: Shaken or stirred? What’s the right way to mix a martini?

DL: Shaking the drink increases the rate at which it cools, as compared to stirring. The issue is, the longer you shake, the more diluted the product The motion also introduces air bubbles, which makes the martini lighter and frothier. Stirring the drink, on the other hand, is a gentler technique used to combine the ingredients with the perfect amount of dilution. Both are great methods, all in all.

Martini Bar @ Mezza9 is located at Grand Hyatt Hotel, 10 Scotts Road, +65 6732 1234

Mark Shaun Fernandez, Bar 12-21 at Morton’s

morton's martini
Left: Mark Shaun Fernandez | Right: Lycheetini

LSA: What are your preferred spirits to make a martini?

MSF: I think every bartender has their preference when it comes to making certain cocktails. Our flavoured cocktails typically just use house pour spirits, which is ideal for cocktails like the Cosmopolitan or Appletini. For those who want neat martinis, premium brands are better as the flavours of the drink will be more defined, enhancing the experience.

LSA: What do you think of vermouth in a martini?

MSF: It’s entirely up to customer preference. Purists will tell you that simply looking at a vermouth bottle whilst making a martini is enough, but we like to keep an open mind.

LSA: Do you shake or stir your martinis?

MSF: That’s a hot topic that remains till this day. Martinis are typically stirred. Ask around, and most bartenders will tell you that stirring a martini is how you should always do it. Some guests prefer it shaken, so the debate lives on.

Bar 21-12 at Morton’s is located at Level 4, Mandarin Oriental, Singapore, 5 Raffles Ave., Singapore 039797, +65 6339 3740

Beatrice Bowers
Features Editor
Beatrice Bowers writes about beauty, drinks, and other nice things. When not bound to her keyboard, she moonlights as a Niffler for novels and can be found en route to bankruptcy at your nearest bookstore. Don't tell her boss.