History of the Martini

The (Debated) History of the Martini

The Martini. A blank canvas ready to be touched by the stroke of a brush. A connoisseur’s bliss. A simple, yet extravagant, indulgence. Throughout the course of history, the origin of this simple cocktail has become one of the world’s greatest debates.

Legend has it that the martini originated in Martinez, California during the gold rush. A man came into a bar after finding his share of gold and asked for a glass of Champagne to celebrate his new-found riches. Unfortunately, the bar was out of champagne, and didn’t know what to do. The bartender told the man that he had something better and then proceeded to make a cocktail using the ingredients he had in stock: vermouth, gin, and ice. The “Martinez Special” was born. Due to popular demand, it received the name “Martini” for short.


Other historians argue it was invented by the vermouth company “Martini & Rossi” in 1911. There is even minor proof that it could’ve been invented in Italy in the 1800’s. While we will never know just who invented the martini, we all know how popular the drink will forever be.

A cocktail that once started with gin, gradually progressed to form the vodka martini. After a surge in the vodka industry in the 17th century, many bartenders didn’t know what to do with the vodka they were given because it was still a very unknown form of liquor. After some experimentation, they substituted the gin in a traditional martini, and a new era was born. Some bartenders called it the Kangaroo, others called it the Kamikaze; today, we call it the vodka martini.

Regardless of the true origin, the traditional martini – as well as the vodka martini – has even touched and shaped American business history. In the 50’s, the era of the “three martini lunch” was booming. This term referred to long, luxurious lunches for business purposes, normally when making important deals or decisions. The catch? Executives could write their alcohol off as a tax-break for “business expenses”.

With so many people taking advantage of their martini lunch breaks, it even became a talking point during a presidential elections. Some candidates stated that the three martini lunch was taking away from the working-class, others like President Ford, responded to the critics by declaring, “the three-martini lunch is the epitome of American efficiency. Where else can you get an earful, a bellyful and a snootful at the same time?” The drink became a monumental icon for American business and forever changed the way deals were made.

Today, the martini can be seen as a modern form of art with never-ending craft cocktail possibilities.  Shaken or stirred, dirty or neat, olives or a citrus twist, Glass Vodka takes the martini to a whole new level with a collection of vodkas made from the finest wine grapes grown in the Pacific Northwest.  While we still honor the history of the martini, we’ve explored some new directions with these recipes featuring our flagship vodka and a few other naturally-infused options such as Glass Nectar (honey), Glass Kona (coffee), and Glass Spice (cinnamon).


Glass Martini

3 oz Glass Vodka


Add vodka and ice to shaker and shake for 15 seconds then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with your favorite citrus – ours is an orange twist.

(created by our Founder and Chief Distiller, Ian MacNeil)


Kona Mocha Martini

1 oz Glass Kona Vodka

¾ oz Frangelico

¾ oz Kahlua

¾ oz Bailey’s

In a mixing glass add all ingredients. Fill with ice, shake and strain into cold martini glass. Garnish with three coffee beans.  

(created and featured at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, WA)


Glass Lemon Drop

2 ½ oz Glass Nectar vodka

1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp powdered sugar

Add vodka and lemon juice to a shaker filled with ice and shake for 20 seconds. Strain into a martini glass over a powdered sugar rim. Garnish with a lemon twist. (created by Ben Gingras and featured at Eddie V’s in Dallas, TX)


Glass Cinnamon Toast Martini

1 oz Glass Spice vodka

½ oz Glass Vodka

3 oz RumChata

1 tsp of vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into a martini glass and serve up.  

(created by our Founder and Chief Distiller, Ian MacNeil)


Want to make these tasty cocktails at home?  Buy a bottle in our Boutique & Tasting Room in Seattle or find one in a store near you.