Where to Find a Classic…
A martini is a martini in most languages, so we ponder where the globetrotting aficionado can find this classic cocktail, here’s our top 5 martini bars
Round-up by Winston Chesterfield
Every bar worth its name should know how to make a good dry martini. Just as any chef worth his salt should be able to crack an egg. However, the emphasis of the verb is pertinent; not every bar does know how. I can’t count the number of times I have been in some fairly swanky environments in some not-so-hick towns where I have been served gin-flavoured cold water with floating flakes of ice, later described on the bill as a ‘Dry Gin Martini.’
The frustrating thing is it isn’t that difficult to make a good one. For one thing, you never shake it, it is just carefully stirred – James Bond has a lot to answer for. Shaking it produces the horribly messy, iced-water concoction, which is a criminal waste of gin.
And that’s another point too – this is a gin cocktail. Vodka is inferior in this drink, no matter how many times it has been distilled. A dry martini is about bringing the botanicals of the gin to life, using the vermouth sparingly to balance it. As a result, it is also more of a true gin-lovers drink than the ubiquitous G&T.
The good news is, like Coca-Cola, it’s an internationally recognisable term, so it’s easy to order in languages you have little grip on – just make sure you order it in a place where they know their olives from their lemon peel, here’s our top 5 martini bars:
Atlas is an astonishing place. The size of a ballroom in a royal palace, and ornately decorated in a gilded Art Deco fashion, it’s straight out of a Gotham City comic. Now, a good selection of gin is essential to a martini bar. You shouldn’t trust a bar if it has one lone bottle of gin, dusting on the shelf, just as you wouldn’t trust a restaurant with one wine on the carte du vin. Anything from five to 10 gins is impressive, and above that, pretty exceptional, but Atlas Bar’s giant haul of more than 1,000 gins is utterly ludicrous. This means you could try a different gin martini every single day for more than two and a half years. And when it comes to mixing martinis, these guys know their juniper and the etched Deco glassware they serve it in is the most beautiful you will find anywhere.
Nomad, New York
There’s a lot of good cocktail bars in New York, which is of no surprise as cocktails are to the Apple what ale is to London, but Nomad shines above them all. Part of the Nomad Hotel in the Flatiron area, it is dimly lit, romantic and cosy but also possessing of a chic, semi-baronial, Parisian grandeur. The bar staff are amongst the most knowledgeable you will meet; genuinely professional mixologists who care deeply about what they are making and how they are making it. The cocktails, overall, are extremely good, but the martini – which I usually prefer as a Gibson with St George Terroir gin – is by far the best I have had in New York. They have a healthy selection of gins too, which is indecently rare in the city.
Bar Americain, London
Americain, which is in London but is really faux-Parisian, used to be a secret place, but no longer – you might have to queue for the experience. This popular bar was the old smoking room of the former Beaux-Arts/Deco Regent Palace Hotel and its aggressively Deco pillars, walls and aesthetic details will have you gasping for a dry martini – that most Deco of drinks. The bar staff are highly knowledgeable and can make everything you have heard of and plenty you have not, and their dry martinis are brutally good. They have a solid selection of good gins – try the Pink Pepper – and they are served in beautiful small coupes, the original glass for the cocktail.
The Connaught Bar, London
This Gatsby-esque, shimmering, chromed room in the luxury hotel of the same name is on the corner of Mayfair’s most exclusive street. It has a substantial gin selection and the service, being in one of London’s finest hotels, is exceptional, but it is the cool, monochrome glamour of the place that captures you. They serve their Connaught Martini, theatrically, from an elegant trolley that is wheeled to your table. Not a new invention, but the Connaught has refined the process. Though expensive, it isn’t stuffy or haughty, and is the perfect place for a special occasion.
Le Fumoir, Paris
If you find yourself in Paris in thirst of a decent dry martini (and with a distinct reluctance to pay a king’s ransom for said martini in some grandiose palace hotel), Le Fumoir is the place for you. Happily situated in the finest arrondissement – the 1st of course – with outside tables that boast a view of the Louvre no less, it has an unpretentious charm and is a very Parisian hybrid of café, salon de thé, restaurant and bar. Unlike most of the tourist-weary places in the surrounding area, the orange-awninged Fumoir not only makes a proper drink, they also devote a whole page of their menu to the martini.