A martini is made with either vodka or gin and vermouth. How do you decide whether to add gin or vodka to your martini? Gin versus vodka in a martini is one of the oldest debates in history, and the answer to the best martini depends on who you ask. Understanding the different flavors and distillation processes can help you choose the best martini drink...

gin martini vs vodka martini

What Is a Gin Martini?

Traditionally, martinis were made with gin, meaning if you order a martini in a historic or classic bar, you'll likely get gin. While there is some debate about the first martini, many agree that it was the Martinez. This beverage combined sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters, and gin. 

While there are still many stories today about the first-ever martini, many accept that it used gin. However, people started experimenting with new additions, including vodka, over the years. To this day, a martini still includes just two ingredients (plus a garnish).

What Is a Vodka Martini?

It's not clear exactly when people began adding vodka to martinis, but we can trace it back to at least the 1960s when James Bond made the "shaken, not stirred" line famous when he ordered a martini with vodka. If you walk into a more contemporary bar and order the best martini, they'll likely give you the choice between gin or vodka.

Gin and Vodka Differences

Perhaps the biggest difference between gin and vodka is the taste that you get with each one. The best gin has an herbal or rustic flavor (we recommend Rabbit Hole for a delicious hint of spice), whereas the flavor of vodka greatly depends on the ingredients. There tends to be a wider range in flavor when it comes to vodka than gin. The flavor differences come down to the distillation process. Gin is distilled using ethanol in the presence of juniper berries, giving it a strong, fruitful flavor.

Distilling vodka includes repeatedly heating it into vapor and then distilling it. Once cooled, the vodka returns to its natural, liquid state and is filtered based on brand standards, similar to how bourbon is distilled. Vodka, unlike gin, is distilled with the purpose of being flavorless. Some people believe that the best martini is flavorless, and others would argue that it gives off a more rustic flavor profile.

More variation or customization may be available when ordering a martini with vodka. This is because traditional vodka is made to be flavorless. Flavored vodka is distilled with additives, similar to gin with juniper berries. You can change up the flavor of your martini drinks by using different flavored vodka types. Liddel Vodka is an imported French wheat vodka that gives your vodka martini a clean flavor.

Gin and Vodka Similarities

Despite some differences, gin and vodka are also similar in some ways. They both go through a distillation process, which includes separating mixtures at varying boiling points. Both gin and vodka also pair exceptionally well with vermouth, the second ingredient found in a martini. Gin and vodka even have some physical similarities. Both are clear and void of any color.

You can also serve a gin or vodka martini in many of the same ways. In fact, another common debate among martini drinkers is whether the best martini is shaken or stirred. Historically, the best martini was originally stirred. Shaking is ideal for unique twists on the traditional martini, especially ones with thicker ingredients, like egg whites or thicker syrups. Otherwise, shaking runs the risk of watering down your martini, whether you use gin or vodka.

Depending on your preferences, gin and vodka martinis can also be served dry or wet. This refers to how much vermouth you add to your martini. The more vermouth, the less dry. When making the best martinis, there isn't a set amount of vermouth to add with either gin or vodka. Regardless of whether you order a gin or vodka martini, both are served in a martini glass, sometimes chilled.

Gin or Vodka Martini: Which Is the Best Martini?

There isn't a clear-cut answer as to whether the best martini should be made with gin or vodka. Instead, we recommend testing out different flavor profiles to choose the best one for you. Regardless of whether you choose to try gin or vodka, we recommend chilling it first. A key component of any quality martini is chilled gin or vodka. Chilling the class ahead of time is a great way to enjoy a cold martini without the risk of watering down its contents.

The best way to find out if you prefer a gin or vodka martini is to make an identical drink using each. This means adding the exact same amount of vermouth, ice, and garnish to each beverage. The only difference is whether you use gin or vodka as the base. We recommend a classic martini, which is three parts gin or vodka to one part vermouth. 

If you really want to focus on the differences in taste between gin or vodka, you can compare them with a naked martini. This is a beverage that simply includes the chilled gin or martini, along with an olive.

Can Gin Be Classified as Vodka?

Not to confuse you, but gin can also technically be a type of vodka. Gin that's redistilled from vodka along with junipers can lead to it being classified as vodka. Whereas some consider gin a type of vodka, vodka is never a type of gin. This is because gin uses a similar distillation process as vodka, but since it also uses flavors, it can technically be a type of flavored vodka.

Gin is the way to go if you prefer tart and flavorful martini beverages. Vodka may be a clear choice if you want something smoother and more classic. While this debate is likely to be never-ending, this also means that neither choice is going anywhere anytime soon. The best gin martini is botanical, earthy, and sweet. The best martini using vodka is bitter and spicy. Ultimately though, the best martini is one that you enjoy.

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