Why Does Extra Dry Mean No Vermouth?

by Columbine Quillen on November 5, 2010

I heard a couple the other day disputing martini terminology, which sort of made me laugh as I figured most adults knew basic cocktail terms. But listening to these two made me see that perhaps a basic lesson in cocktail terminology could be helpful.

They were in a nasty debate with iPhones drawn and fingers a tapping over what a martini was (A true fascists will tell you that it must be gin.) And then a new delight abounded when they couldn’t agree on the terms “dry” and “dirty” perhaps only because of the lure of the word’s devious little double entendres that allowed the night to sparkle in a way it hadn’t before.

As for what all these things actually mean: we will call a martini vodka or gin as the base spirit mixed with dry vermouth. (Dry vermouth is a fortified wine typically made from inexpensive white grapes. It is further flavored by either percolating or macerating herbs and botanicals in it.) Dirty simply means to add olive juice to it. Feeling really salty, ask for it Filthy. Dry means with little dry vermouth and Extra Dry means with no dry vermouth, I looked for a while trying to find out where the term “dry” comes from in regards to cocktails, but I couldn’t find anything. If you happen to know its origin, please do tell.

Here’s a list of other common cocktail terms that it probably wouldn’t hurt to know as an adult.

Press (half soda half seven-up)
Neat (no ice cubes)
Straight Up (When referring to vodka or gin, it typically means shaken and served in a cocktail glass. When referring to whiskey, tequila, or scotch, it typically means served neat – without ice cubes.)
Up – shaken and served in a cocktail glass
Twist – a piece of the lemon flesh, typically twisted in the shape of the spiral. Take note as the idea is for the oil of the lemon to zest out into your cocktail and then the essence to be imparted on the rim.
Gibson – Martini with onions in it as a garnish.
Gimlet - Vodka or gin shaken with lime juice (tell the bartender if you prefer Rose’s or fresh lime juice).

- Columbine Quillen
I am a mixologist bartender and this is my blog.

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