The Martini has a long and storied past. Its true origins are unclear, but it is clear that Prohibition pushed the cocktail into the spotlight. The “ease” of acquiring Gin at that time, and the simplicity of the cocktail made it a staple at speakeasys.
However, as I’ve said before: simple cocktails can be the toughest to master. With so few ingredients, there’s no hiding a mistake. The Martini is most definitely one of those cases where you should use quality booze. My order of preference is: Aviation Gin, Plymouth Gin, Bluecoat Gin, Gordon’s Gin. (Gordon’s will give you a nice punch in the mouth. Perfect for post-Hard Day.) As for your Dry Vermouth, try a bunch. You’ll likely come back to Martini & Rossi, but check others while you’re perfecting it.
Originally, asking for a “Dry” Martini was a comment on the type of Gin used, not the amount of Vermouth in it. But since very few bars carry Genever Gin anymore, “dry” now means “low vermouth.” “Wet” means “give me the correct, full measure of vermouth!”
But, Martini is still a Martini: simple, classy, and powerful.
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Queen Olive or a twist of lemon peel.
The Gibson: Same as The Martini, but garnish with two or three Cocktail Onions.
The Kangaroo (aka, Vodka Martini): Same as The Martini, but use Vodka instead of Gin.
The Dry Martini: Same as The Martini, but don’t add the Vermouth to the shaker. Instead, add the Vermouth to the cocktail glass, swirl, then dump the Vermouth.
Personally, I prefer a Gibson, Wet. You can do the math.