Let’s Get in Touch & Get Things Done


Shopping Cart

No products in the cart.

the martinez: a bit of genever cocktail history

Amidst the hazy recollections of cocktail lore, the origin of the Martinez cocktail stands as somewhat of an enigma. Two narratives vie for the honor of birthing this venerable drink, both steeped in the mystique of the late 19th century, a time when American mixology was in its infancy and the cocktail was a novel indulgence.

One account places the genesis of the Martinez in the expert hands of Jerry Thomas, the legendary bartender then at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco. Thomas, known as “the father of American mixology,” was renowned for his flamboyant style and the innovation he brought to the craft of cocktails. It’s possible that he concocted the Martinez for a traveler en route to the nearby town of Martinez, California. However, definitive proof of this tale remains as elusive as the last drops of a well-enjoyed drink.

In a parallel narrative, the name of a bartender known only as Richelieu emerges from the shadows of history. He is said to have served at a saloon in Martinez, California, where, perhaps by serendipity or a stroke of genius, he mixed the first Martinez cocktail. The locals were charmed, and the drink’s reputation began to unfurl beyond the wooden swinging doors of Richelieu’s establishment.

The truth of these stories is shrouded by time, as records from those days are either lost or incomplete. Yet, the 1887 edition of Thomas’ seminal work, “The Bar-Tender’s Guide,” lends credence to the cocktail’s early existence, as it presents a recipe for the Martinez, a concoction that clearly resonated with the palates of the period.

What is indisputable is the Martinez’s composition—a harmonious blend of genever, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and a dash of bitters. This quartet danced together in the glass, creating a drink that was at once complex and balanced, with genever’s botanical depth leading the charge.

The Martinez’s alchemy of flavors had a subtle yet undeniable influence on the later creation of the Manhattan, another cocktail icon. The Manhattan borrowed the Martinez’s vermouth and bitters, but swapped the genever for a robust rye whiskey, a twist that would elevate the Manhattan to its own fame.

In the current resurgence of classic cocktails, the Martinez, much like a forgotten melody rediscovered, is being poured anew. Its resurgence honors the tradition of genever and the craft of early bartenders, whose experimental dashes and pours have shaped the rich tapestry of cocktail history.

So the Martinez endures, a liquid legend poured from the annals of mixology. It invites us to reflect on the origins of our favorite drinks and celebrate both the known and the unknown bartenders who, with a shake and stir, have left an indelible mark on the world of spirits and libations.