Whilst gin is the original spirit to be used as the base of a Martini, vodka martinis are now seen as equally ‘classic’ and, indeed, classy – they never go out of style.
There are many potential origin stories of the Martini cocktail itself, but for decades in the late 1800s a cocktail was made with Old Tom (sweetened) gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino and bitters, and this gradually morphed into a Dry Martini, using dry Gin, dry vermouth and no maraschino, and became very popular in the 1920s. Vodka started to gain popularity in the UK in the 1930s, and it started being used in Martini-style drinks in top hotel bars. Its popularity was bolstered by soldiers (and the press that reported on them) who had been fighting in Eastern Europe during WWII returning with a taste for vodka rather than gin.
But the Vodka Martini really exploded onto the public consciousness in the 1960’s with the release of Dr No. Sean Connery, playing a dashing British spy, James Bond, ordered Dry Vodka Martinis, and the phrase ‘shaken, not stirred’ was mentioned in his second movie in the franchise. In those days, drinking a martini made from Vodka would have indicated a certain level of suave exoticness, as that implied knowledge of Eastern Europe which was behind the Iron Curtain at the time. The USSR was not a common place to have visited, and only the very wealthy, or those who were relatively brave, would venture there, whereas everyone’s grandmother drank gin. Vodka was also assumed to be stronger or harsher than locally-made gin, and so asking for it in a martini was seen as more macho than an old-fashioned gin one.
Shaking the Martini, however, would have increased dilution and aeration, with some people suggesting that Bond’s desire for it to be shaken was a clever ploy by the spy, who would be able to handle his alcohol better with a more diluted drink, or some think that it was to help soften out the burn from the mass-produced, relatively flavourless vodkas that were available globally at the time.
In those days Martinis were relatively unknown to society in Eastern Europe and USSR, but with frequent visits of foreigners in 1960s, the Martini, especially the ‘vodka-tini’ became a popular serve at Soviet bars like Hotel Moskva or the Metropol Hotel in Moscow and Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg. Quality ingredients were essential when making a martini, so only the best quality Russian vodka was used to mix the cocktail, and the drink was adopted by well-heeled Russians as an upgrade to the traditional and more rustic neat vodka, or vodka on the rocks.
Vermouth, from Italy or France was seen by both those in Russia and the UK as a luxe ingredient, but here again, James Bond showed his disregard for tradition by requesting a sweeter aromatised (or aperitif) wine. The one he called for in the books is unfortunately now discontinued, but the most similar aperitif on the modern market is Cocchi Americano – an aromatised wine from the north of Italy that was created in 1891.
Ever since it’s launch in 2002, Beluga Vodka has become a popular choice for a martini, thanks to its exceptional smoothness and elegant flavour. Crafted in the heart of Siberia at the Mariinsk Distillery, which has a rich heritage dating back to 1900. Beluga Vodka uses a unique blend of wheat malt spirit and artesian water, which passes through five rounds of filtering and then has a 30-day resting period. This makes the taste exquisitely balanced and soft – perfect for making a stirred Martini! Beluga Vodka is a manifestation of true distilling heritage, passion and dedication to create an outstanding vodka using only the finest ingredients. When used in a Martini, it delivers a refined and rich taste with delicate cereal notes and hints of citrus. The classic drink is perfectly balanced with subtle sweetness and silky texture.
The Beluga Vodka Martini Recipe
60ml Beluga Vodka
10ml Cocchi Americano (use 15-20ml for a ‘wetter’ martini)
1 Lemon Twist (or an Olive can be used for a more briney flavour), for garnish
1. Add the Beluga Vodka and Cocchi American to a mixing glass filled with ice. If you can put the mixing glass and martini glass in the freezer an hour before you mix, that will help the drink to reach an ideal temperature
2. Stir rapidly until thoroughly mixed and chilled, around 15-20 seconds.
3. Strain the resulting mixture into a pre-frozen cocktail glass.
4. Garnish with a twist of lemon (or an olive). The Martini is arguably the king of cocktails. The simple structure of the drink allows the nuances of Beluga Vodka to shine through and delivers an incredible sensation when you drink it