If there’s one thing to be learned from the Martini renaissance, it’s that everyone is looking for something different when they order the classic cocktail. There are shot-size Martinis and Martinis made by the bottle (or porrón), extra-dry regional takes and fashionably wet variations. Bartenders’ preferred gins for the drink are equally varied.
“My personal taste is for a juniper-forward recipe,” says Laura Maddox, of the classics-focused bar Small Victory in Austin, Texas. Adam Montgomerie, bar manager of the New York outpost of the restaurant Hawksmoor, agrees: “Juniper has to be up front for me when making a proper Martini.” But not everyone feels that a London dry is the best gin for the job. “Although I like a nice London dry gin, I tend to look for something a bit softer and less juniper-forward when it comes to Martinis,” says Ramón Clark, bar manager at Seattle’s Deep Dive. Still other bartenders we surveyed searched for botanicals like citrus, peppercorn and regional flowers at the forefront.
This list of recommended gins to mix into Martinis is less of a definitive ranking, and more of a sample of the gins that bartenders are most excited to introduce to the classic right now. Though the selections vary, there are a few commonalities: Many favor gins with a sense of place, with distinct botanicals that shine on their own and can stand up to vermouth. Each gin should be considered in the right context—whether it’ll be used for a 50/50 or a dirty Martini, for instance. Here are five gins worth seeking out, at every price point.