The History of the Martini

Jump to

All the best cocktails have back stories that are romantic, unusual and a little bit unlikely – sometimes the story is even more entertaining than the drink! But the cocktails that make it to ‘classic’ status usually have more than one story, so that you are never really sure where the drink was first made.
The Martini, however, has at least four tales behind it, which is fitting, considering the number of variations there are for this drink. Even the standard Martini cocktail can be served dry, shaken or stirred, while a quick search on the website will bring up a huge number of Martini-style drinks. Mince Pie Martini anyone? Or perhaps you’d prefer a Wasabi Martini?! The variations are endless and some are rather bizarre!

So where was the Martini born? Let me tell you the stories and then you can decide for yourself.

San Francisco

Bartender Jerry Thomas was quite the celebrity back in the late 19th century. He was flashy, extrovert and he knew how to put on a show when making a cocktail. He was also the brains behind the first ever The Bartenders’ Guide, and subsequent updates of the book in the years after. It was the 1887 edition which included a drink known as the Martinez. Thomas had actually been dead for two years when this book was published, and it bears little resemblance to the modern Martini, but that doesn’t stop people from insisting that this was where the drink originated.


There is a town in California called Martinez, which claims to be the birthplace of the Martini. Legend has it that Julio Richelieu invented the drink when a lucky prospector walked into his bar after having struck gold in a nearby mine. He asked him to create a brand-new drink to celebrate his find.


The third story takes us out of America and into Europe, where the brand Martini & Rossi released its sweet vermouth spirit in 1863. Some people believe that the Martini cocktail was born simply because people would go to the bars and ask for a gin and Martini. Eventually, people stopped needing to ask for the gin to be added.

New York

Back to the US, and the early 20th century, where a bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia worked in the Knickerbocker Hotel. He would regularly serve a concoction of gin, vermouth and orange bitters to John D Rockefeller. Was the drink named after this young cocktail master?

So which story do you believe? While some are undoubtedly more likely than others, it would take a lot of digging to unveil the true origins. Let us know what you find out!

Pardon the interruption

Did you know that you can become a member for free, taking your cocktail making skills up to level 11. You can save your My Bar ingredients, make tasting notes, have personalised Tried and Want to try lists and more.

More to explore

The Old-Fashioned History of the Old Fashioned

A sophisticated blend of bourbon, bitters, soda and sugar, the Old Fashioned cocktail has roots that...

How to Pick a Cocktail Glass

Since the bars have been closed for some time now, we have all had to become amateur mixologists, cr...

Whisky's, Whiskey's and Bourbons.

There are many different whiskeys that you can purchase, but in general there are 4 main categories...

Bartender's top tip

In mixology, details matter. A slight chill on a glass, a perfectly measured ingredient, or a fresh garnish can elevate your cocktail from good to exceptional. Always seek perfection.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get tips straight into your inbox.