Whether you’re hosting a dinner party, pre-gaming a steak dinner, or unwinding from a long day, Mad Men-style, the martini is a drink that never goes out of style. It’s also a cocktail with about a million variants that people tend to get extremely picky about.

That’s all well and good—part of the fun of drinking martinis, after all, is figuring out your sweet spot. But before you can do that, you have to have a solid starting point. To give us a classic, trusty, well-balanced martini recipe to stir and serve with confidence, we went to John McCarthy, a longtime NYC bar vet and current beverage director at the Greenwich Project.

First things first: A true martini is always built with gin, so get those vodka thoughts out of your head straight off the bat. And let’s get some nomenclature down: A wet martini uses more vermouth, while a dry martini uses less (it may just be used to coat the glass and then discarded before gin us added. Here, McCarthy shows us a classic variant of a wet martini, dressed up with a couple dashes of orange bitters. If you used French vermouth, this drink would be known as a Hoffman House, named for a famed NYC barroom of yore where it was a house speciality.

Check out the recipe below, and click through the gallery above to see each step of the process. Play around with different amounts of vermouth until you find your favorite ratio.

Classic Wet Martini

* 2 ounce gin
* 1 ounce dry vermouth
* 2 dashes orange bitters

Start with cracked ice in a mixing glass or metal shaker. Add two ounces of gin, one ounce of dry vermouth, and two dashes of orange bitters. Stir for about 10 seconds. Strain into a glass and garnish with a lemon peel.