Why You Should Stick To Gin For A More Complex Martini

The cocktail world is full of heated debates. There's the passionate "to salt or not to salt a margarita glass" discourse and the frozen daiquiri versus stirred daiquiri dispute, just to name a couple. The martini may just be the most contentious of all cocktails. From opinions regarding what kind of olives to use to the great "James Bond" shaken or stirred debate, this classic drink has always been capable of controversy. Bond also famously drank a vodka martini, which, since the 1960s, has inspired an uptick in orders, at least according to Festival Wine and Spirits. Now, it's customary for bartenders to ask "gin or vodka?" before handing martinis out. 

Traditionally, this elegant drink was made with just gin, vermouth, and simple garnish. However, the short ingredients list has been met with unique renditions and spirit substitutions over the years. From the Vesper martini – another Bond favorite that includes Lillet Blanc — to the French martini, which includes fruity flavors, there are plenty of notable martini variations. The most popular twist, though, remains the simple use of vodka over gin.

However, despite its modern popularity, there are reasons to eschew the vodka variant in favor of the original. If you're a die-hard vodka martini drinker, you may not like hearing it, but gin is the clear winner for those seeking a more complex cocktail.

Opt for the classic gin martini

While we vehemently stand behind the gin martini, there's an undeniable appeal to choosing vodka. As pointed out by Festival Wine and Spirits, vodka can provide that smooth taste that easily satisfies. However, there's a strong argument that the traditional choice of gin provides a more complex flavor.

"Gin gives the martini backbone because it's the highest ABV product in the mix, and because juniper adds complex flavors and aroma," spirits and cocktail expert Derek Brown told Mental Floss in 2016. Juniper is a central component of all gin, and that distinct botanical addition is the key to getting the ideal martini flavor.

However, gin isn't the only reason martinis are a standout star in the cocktail world. Adding the right amount of vermouth can also make or break your drink. Vermouth adds an important complexity to the flavors in a martini, adding its own botanical notes and sweetening up the drink. At least, as long as you use the sweet vermouth that a traditional martini calls for. If you're a fan of drier cocktails, you can opt for a dry vermouth instead, or simply ease up when adding it in. However, we don't recommend skipping it.

So, for all the devoted "James Bond" fans and modern cocktail lovers, we apologize. After all, it does come down to personal preference, and if you truly love that fresh and bold vodka flavor, we're here to support you. But we have to declare gin the overall winner in this great cocktail debate.