The Martini is hardly a monolith. The combination of gin (or vodka) and vermouth can be assembled in countless ratios, for results that run the gamut from bone-dry to fashionably “wet.” Some include special touches, from bespoke bitters to eye-catching garnishes, and no, they’re not all served in V-shaped glasses.
But what makes a Martini truly iconic? The distinguishing characteristic is rarely what’s in the glass. More often, what makes a “bucket list” Martini comes down to the dedicated bartenders mixing the drink, the presentation of the finished cocktail and the theatrical technique that goes into its creation—whether thrown, rolled or poured from a Christofle decanter. At one noted London destination, the bartender makes a performance of tossing vermouth on the floor after rinsing the glass to emphasize the dryness of their house Martini.
To zero in on the essential Martinis—those worthy of a pilgrimage just to try—we asked several bar world professionals to name their “bucket list” examples. To be sure, these aren’t the only memorable Martinis around. And still others, like Pegu Club’s Fitty-Fitty, belong firmly in the modern Martini canon, despite their bar of origin no longer existing.
Here, 10 Martinis worth seeking out right now.
The Grill's Martini | Photo: Lizzie Munro
Bottled Martini, The Grill | New York City
Originally created by Thomas Waugh, who has since decamped from both The Grill and New York, this prechilled Martini served at the restaurant’s bar (known as The Bar) gave credence to the now-widely adopted practice of prediluting spirit-forward cocktails. The Grill’s version blends two gins, two vermouths and spring water, then is chilled to ice-cold perfection in the freezer and poured from Christofle crystal decanters at the iconic Midtown address.
The soaring room “feels Martini-worthy,” explains William Elliott, bar director at Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere. “It’s a balanced Martini that you’re also getting to enjoy in an incredibly built space.”Read More →
Harry's Bar Martini | Photo: Colin Dutton
Dukes' Martini | Photo: Jason Bailey Studio
Dukes’ Martini, Dukes Hotel | London
“There’s no danger of getting a warm Martini at Dukes,” says Elliott. “[The gin is] poured out of the bottle frozen, poured undiluted and unbelievably dry.”
At Dukes, once a favorite of James Bond creator Ian Fleming, the drink is a double, containing four ounces of that frozen, almost syrupy gin (or vodka), and the barest minimum of vermouth. If Alessandro Palazzi is behind the bar, most likely he’ll rinse the V-shaped glass with English dry vermouth—then disdainfully toss the excess over his shoulder, onto the carpet.Read More →