Oppenheimer Had a Signature Martini. Here’s How to Make It.

His version is extra strong but with a unique twist

July 25, 2023 11:39 am
oppenheimer martini
Oppenheimer: he's just like us (kind of)
Los Alamos Historical Society

I saw Oppenheimer last night, and it was amazing. But there was one scene that baffled me, and I’m not talking about the multiple chalkboards of formulas that the scientists were discussing throughout. No, this scene was during a dinner party at the Oppenheimer household. While J. Robert Oppenheimer was preparing Martinis for his guests, he did something very curious — he rimmed the glass with some sort of liquid.

At first, before his wife came into the kitchen asking if the Martinis were ready, I assumed he was making Sidecars, a classic cocktail with Cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice that is sometimes served with a sugar-dusted rim. This, of course, was a foolish assumption, as Oppenheimer was known for his love of Martinis. He was a charming entertainer and often hosted parties at his Los Alamos home during the Manhattan Project. According to Discover, Pat Sherr, the wife of a lab physicist, said, “He served the most delicious and coldest Martinis.” 

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And those Martinis were damn strong, too. Sir Rudolf Peierls, a British physicist, visited Los Alamos with his wife Genia during World War II. And according to his memoir, Bird of Passage: Recollections of a Physicist, the combination of a high altitude and Oppenheimer’s strong Martinis made them quite woozy. “After dinner, we had great trouble getting up from the table and walking home,” he said.

A typical Martini usually has two to two and a half ounces of gin or vodka. But Oppenheimer used a whopping four ounces of gin, and he and his guests likely drank more than one or two, hence his reputation as making the strongest cocktails around.

OK, so what is the liquid that he’s dipping the glasses in during the film? Oppenheimer rimmed the Martini glass in an equal mix of lime juice and honey. He stirred four ounces of gin together with a smidge of dry vermouth until ice cold, then strained it into the rimmed glass. 

Honestly, we can’t wait to try it at home. If you’re looking to do the same, we recommend Hendrick’s Gin or Watershed Distillery Four Peel Gin because they complement citrus quite nicely. Just maybe stick to one cocktail if you’re going for the full four ounces. 


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