The Perfect Martini – Shanghai Edition

It finally happened. Yesterday, after a hard day’s work, I got home and fixed myself a martini. As I sat down to sip it, it struck me. I have made the perfect martini. My quest is at an end.

In other words, I can now flaunt my skills, as they produce a truly enjoyable martini. Allow me, then, to flaunt them by sharing with you my martini recipe:


– Shaker & strainer (stainless steel or glass)
– Spoon
– Martini glass
– Fancy toothpick (optional)
– Lemon twist tool (optional)


– London dry gin (I recommend Bombay Sapphire)
– Extra-dry Vermouth (Martini brand ok)
– Spanish olives OR lemon
– Ice


1. If you want a perfect martini, it’s time to say hello to high electricity bills. Crank the freezer temperature as down as you can. I have a Chinese freezer that’s so effective, the vodka actually smokes as it comes out of the bottle.

2. Store the shaker and the martini glasses in the freezer. Make sure your ice is fresh. Avoid at all costs ice that is contaminated by food tastes, as the water from the melting ice is a very important part of the final drink. If you want to make a vodka martini, store your vodka bottle in the freezer. Do NOT store the gin in the freezer, as coldness dims the taste of the gin. Likewise, don’t store the vermouth in the freezer! Freezing is bad for the vermouth.

3. Prepare your garnish. Use the toothpicks to spear 2 or 4 olives, and make sure the olives are cleaned of any brine. (When in Shanghai, use pure water and avoid tap water.) If you want to use a lemon garnish, cut a thin strip of the lemon’s peel, including the white. (Bartending tools exist that do this.) Set the strip aside for now. For a super-cool garnish, remove the pimento from a Spanish olive, crush blue cheese with a spoon, and stuff the olive with blue cheese instead. Yum!


1. Take the shaker out of the freezer, and fill it halfway through with ice.

2. Pour 0.5 oz. dry vermouth in the shaker, followed by 3 oz. gin.

3. Using a stirring spoon, gently stir the drink. Avoid stirring too hard! You don’t want to chip the ice, or introduce air in the drink. Stirring is the most important part of making a martini, and requires gentleness. Stir until the water has started melting. (Approx. 45 seconds.)

4. Take the martini glass out of the freezer. Using a strainer, pour the liquid into the glass.

5. Put the olives garnish into the drink. If you want to make a lemon garnish, squeeze the strip of lemon peel over the drink, then twist it into a spring. Compress and pull back the twist, so it adopts a spring shape. Drop the garnish into the drink.

6. Serve immediately on a coaster. Admire what a cool martini you just made by marveling at how transparent and cold the drink looks. Cool, huh?

Gin or vodka?

I prefer gin, but I also love vodka. For that reason, I refer strictly to gin when refering to a martini, but I acknowledge that a vodka martini is a fabulous thing. I prefer olives in a martini, and lemon in a vodka martini, but it’s just a matter of taste.

For vodka martinis can be made using flavored vodka. Especially impressive is Vincent Van Gogh vodkas from Holland, which, combined with sweet vermouth, make a killer sweet vodka martini. More traditional, but awfully impressive, is Russian vodka. (One of the benefits of living in Shanghai is that geniune Russian vodka is quite cheap!)

You can go one step further by making a sweet vodka martini, and adding 1 oz. cranberry juice, and 1 oz. Cointreau. Tada! You’ve got a Cosmopolitan.

Shaken or stirred?

I’ve tried both, and I prefer stirred, by far, although I’m partial to a shaken vodka martini. Shaking or stirring actually makes a huge difference: a shaken martini is cloudy because of suspended ice particles. This tends to diminish the flavor of the gin, although it seems to improve the vodka. For taste reasons, and because I really like my martinis crystal-clear, I always go for stirred.

It’s strange that people associate asking for a “shaken, not stirred” martini as a sign of sophistication, because the true sophisticate martini is the stirred one. I think when Ian Flemming first wrote James Bond, asking for a shaken martini fit his character of a brash, uncompromising playboy-cum-secret agent. It works a lot less when it’s Pierce Brosnan working the English charm asking for a shaken martini. If you want to go for the ‘suave bastard’ impression, ask for a stirred martini, and make a scandal if you get a vodka martini.

About Daniel Roy

Daniel is a writer, backpack foodie, slow traveler, and endurance runner. He is the author of the upcoming book, "The Way of Slow Travel: A Hands-On Guide to the Best Travel of Your Life."


  1. Dan, t’es vraiment un personnage intéressant.

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