Perhaps the most fashionable cocktail of all time, and certainly the favorite of numerous characters in novels and motion pictures, the martini is striking in its simplicity, containing only gin and dry vermouth. Stories abound regarding the martini's origin; according to the most popular (and logical) one, it's a descendant of the martinez, which is claimed to have been created in Martinez, Calif., in 1849 and is, in turn, an offspring of the manhattan. Over the years, that early four-component martinez recipe has transitioned into a two-ingredient, much drier martini, which replaces its predecessor's slight sweetness with an icy austerity. At the beginning of the 19th century, when popular usage of the word "martini" took hold, the drink's proportions were equal parts gin and dry vermouth. By about 1915, the ratio was two parts gin to one part vermouth, with four-to-one being the norm by World War II. Today it's not uncommon to see ratios of six, eight, twelve or fifteen parts gin to one part vermouth. Bottom line: The less vermouth, the drier the martini. Martinis are garnished with a green olive or a lemon twist. A martini may be served straight up or on the rocks. It may also be made with vodka, in which case it's called a vodka martini. A gibson is a martini garnished with a tiny white onion.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.