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History of the classic Martinez

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1867 | Martinez, USA

First and foremost, "Martinez" is known as a surname in Spanish-speaking communities. For travelers, it’s also a major global hotel chain. But for bartenders, it’s an incredibly important cocktail, named for a town in California at the center of the Gold Rush. 

The majority of bartenders sincerely believe that this cocktail in Jerry Thomas’ own creation. Supposedly, he made it in San Francisco’s El Dorado saloon for a gold-seeker headed for Martinez. As we know all too well, beliefs like this don’t have any need of facts, but nevertheless, this version has nothing whatsoever in the way of confirmation. Yet another legend that has entered the canon is that Martini was somehow invented by MARTINEZ. In 1867, a certain prospector went into a saloon to buy a bottle of spirit and paid with gold nuggets. In lieu of change, he asked the bartender to make him something special. That bartender, Julio Richelieu, mixed gin and vermouth, added aromatic butters, garnished the cocktail with an olive, and christened his creation "MARTINEZ". Several cocktails later, the "Z" at the end of the word became too hard to pronounce, and the "Martinez" turned into the "Martini". A recipe-based confirmation of this can be found in Garry Johnson’s 1882 Bartender Manual: at the very least, a cocktail called Martini can be found there according to the Martinez’s recipe. 

The first recipe of the Martinez itself was printed in O. Byron’s 1884 guide, and looked like a variation on the Manhattan using gin. The gold standard later became Jerry Thomas’ 1887 version. It’s interesting that there, there’s only half as much gin as red vermouth. Maraschino liqueur and several drops of bitters provide the cocktail’s aromatic components. Although for a long time, the Martinez lived in the shadow of its more widely-popularized offshoot, it has yet again occupied a high position in the cocktail hierarchy with the rebirth of interest in classic recipes.  

See the recipe

Historian: Vladimir Zhuravlev
Illustration: Mine
Journalists: Sara Davis, Samantha Johnson

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