Why You May Want To Order Your Next Martini On The Rocks

The martini: a drink for the stylish, self-assured jet-setter, gambling for high stakes with someone else's money in the back rooms of Monte Carlo, gallivanting around the world, recklessly winging it on a high-speed chase alongside a cliff on a winding two-lane road, and narrowly escaping to save the world and take down the evil mastermind. But — wait a minute! Is that ice in your glass?! Oh — you're no Bond. He takes his vodka martini medium dry, and "shaken, not stirred." Yours is ... on the rocks?! You're an imposter, more Diane Keaton than 007!

If you've ever considered doing something as unthinkable as ordering your martini "on the rocks," then you may have had something akin to that scene play out in your head. Nevertheless, you shouldn't let it hold you back. While there are gatekeepers nearly everywhere, eager to show us all how gauche we are by helpfully explaining why whatever we're doing is "wrong" or "not authentic," the truth is that food and drink are very personal. And while it's fun to learn and try new things, it's equally satisfying to consume things just the way you like them, for whatever reason you choose. 

As for drinking your martini on the rocks, there is a case to be made for this refreshing combination, and some hefty historical precedents that favor the individual personality of your martini order. 

Why drink your martini on ice?

Why not? If actor/director Diane Keaton can unapologetically enjoy putting her red wine (and "wine snobs," as Wine Spectator noted) on ice, "pushing boundaries in the wine world" with her red blend, The Keaton — why can't you put your favorite cocktail on ice? For those who wish to enjoy martinis all year round (especially vodka martini drinkers) serving it on the rocks just makes sense. Vodka tastes best when it's icy cold, which is why so many people store their vodka in the freezer. Another reason to serve your 'tini on ice is water. Martinis are all alcohol (save for the lemon twist or, for those who like it "dirty," a little olive brine), which means if you're looking to slow the inebriation process a bit, those rocks may be your new bestie. Epicurious food editor Anna Stockwell (a self-described "big fan" of an iced martini), explains that it "lasts longer," as the ice's slow melt means she can enjoy sipping on her drink longer, without getting "tipsy too fast." 

And speaking of Bond, why does he order his martinis "shaken, not stirred," when conventional wisdom says the purest, most undiluted flavor and strongest drink is the stirred and not shaken preparation? Well, no one knows for sure, but Drink Hacker puts forth the argument that it's in Bond's rebellious nature to go against the grain, and also offers that "perhaps he just prefers a weaker drink with some water in the mix."

Martini history: A case for on the rocks

According to Robert Simonson, author of "The Martini Cocktail," there's no shame in drinking your martini any way you like it. In fact, he told Epicurious that in the same way we all have preferences for how we like our steak or our eggs, the martini is just as personal. Rosie Schaap, author of "Drinking with Men," agrees, telling Simonson in Punch, "No cocktail, not even the martini, is sacrosanct. Gin and vermouth taste good together, and, on a hot day, I'd just as soon add ice."

In that same piece, Simonson explains that drinking your martini "on-the-rocks" (he makes a case for the hyphenated spelling) is not a new idea. In fact, he says the martini on the rocks began showing up on drink menus in the early 1950s. By 1961, The New York Times was reporting that both a vodka martini and martini on the rocks were the two "most significant" trends to happen to martinis. (During this same time, the Manhattan on the rocks was also having its day in the sun.)

Will ice ruin your martini?

But will putting your martini on ice ruin its flavor? It all depends on a variety of factors, like whether it's gin or vodka (or even Aquivit, as cocktail book author Ashley Rose Conway of Craft & Cocktails does in her Halloween-inspired Creepy Crawler Martini); what quality and proof your alcohol is (Epicurious recommends using a "robustly juniper-flavored gin," or upping the proof to help retain your cocktail's bold flavor); and what kind of water your ice is made with and the size of your cube (via Barillio), as well as your own preferences in terms of flavor and dilution.

The classic martini is a drink for the bold individual, someone who cares little about obeying social conventions. Though the martini appears simple and uncomplicated, getting there requires that you really know yourself and what you like. There are choices to be made — do you like vermouth? Do you want it sweet, wet, perfect, medium dry, or dry? Gin or vodka (or even aquavit)? Olives, onions (technically those make it a Gibson), maybe a citrus twist? Dirty or clean? Shaken or stirred? Straight up or on the rocks?

So the next time you find yourself doubting your drink order, ask yourself, who exactly is drinking this thing anyway? You — right? Shouldn't it be made just the way you like it? And if that's on the rocks, then so be it — mixologists, bartenders, and gatekeepers be damned. It's exactly what Keaton and Bond would do.