The Nineteenth Century has gone down in the history books as the Age of Sticky-Sweet Cocktails. But an interesting thing happened at the end of the 1880s and through the 1890s which revolutionized hard drinks forever: America went mad for dryness.
Through most of the century, what was meant by "vermouth" was Italian Vermouth -- the sweet, red stuff. Then French Vermouth came along -- pale, white-wine based, and determinedly dry. This had two effects. First, and less importantly, it produced an essentially transparent drink. The warm orange color of the Manhattan gave way to a drink that, without its olive or twist, could easily be mistaken for a glass of water.
More significantly, taking a Martinez and substituting dry vermouth for sweet resulted in an utterly transformed drink.
The American Martini Laboratory recreated that first, Ur-Martini, using the recipe below:
One part Old Tom Gin
One part Dry Vermouth
Two dashes orange bitters
Shake over ice, then strain into a cocktail glass
Add a twist of lemon
Judging this drink is extremely difficult. Taken as the next step in the evolution of the cocktail from its origins in the noble Manhattan, it is an eye-opener. It does not taste at all like a Martinez with one ingredient changed. It is an entirely new drink, and a significant step on the road to the Martini as we know it today. So in this regard it must be considered a success.
Taken as a Martini, however... It is extraordinarily wet, and the Old Tom Gin gives it a lingering touch of sweetness. It is not the ne plus ultra of drinks that one goes to a Martini to experience.
Still, a good beginning.
Next: The substitution of London Gin for Old Tom results in the Dry Martini. Or perhaps that should be "Dry" Martini. Stay tuned.