The Corner Office, Denver, CO
History of The Martini
Tuesday, June 19th is National Martini Day so we figured we would dive into the history of our restaurant’s mainstay.
There are many theories of which the Martini was invented. Some are believable, and some are just so crazy you almost think they are true.
The first theory is that a miner struck gold in California during the Gold Rush. The story goes that the miner walked into a bar and asked for a special drink to celebrate his new fortune. The bartender threw together what he had which—which was fortified wine (vermouth) and gin, and a few other goodies. He called this drink the Martinez, after the town in which the bar was located. The Martinez was a hit! And word soon spread about the new drink. It was published in the Bartender’s Manual in the 1880s.
Another legend goes that bartender “Professor” Jerry Thomas is the forefather of the modern Martini. In the late 19th century he was known for his groundbreaking bartending work, flashy techniques, and man-about-town demeanor. He is especially known for publishing the first seminal cocktail manual, The Bar-Tenders Guide. The 1887 edition included the Martinez cocktail, which Thomas claimed to have invented at San Francisco’s Occidental Hotel. There are a few problems with this story however; one, that edition was published two years after Thomas died. Two, the Martinez bears very little resemblance to the Martini… it features a ton of sweet vermouth, bitters, lemon and maraschino liqueur. Nothing similar to our modern-day martini, but very possible.
Some say that the history of the Martini name is simply a matter of branding. Martini & Rossi, an Italian sweet vermouth that was first produced in 1863, seems to be the obvious source. Customers ordering a gin and vermouth concoction at a bar would ask for a “gin and Martini”. This is very plausible, but not a very fun story.
The final theory popularized by amateur cocktail historians is that the Martini first appeared on the East Coast. The Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City was manned by Bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia. The story goes that he served a drink, which as a favorite of John D. Rockefeller, that blended London Dry Gin, Noilly Prat Vermouth, and orange bitters. Some say that the martini-like concoction was named in honor of the bartender. This theory is impossible to verify.
We love to try to guess and hear everyone’s theory! Although, we will probably never actually know where the beloved cocktail was originated.
We would love to see your favorite martini. Tag us on Instagram at @TCODenver to show us what you like.