The martini is a cocktail that has evolved constantly since its inception. Yet, there are still purists who believe that martinis should never deviate from their simple, sophisticated mixes made with gin, dry vermouth, a chilled cocktail glass, and olives or a lemon twist. Even classic martini purists can’t agree on the age-old debate of shaken versus stirred. The not-so-obvious answer is stirred, of course—unlike more complex cocktails, a traditional martini with a few simple ingredients doesn’t need to be shaken. Shaking simply ensures the multitude of ingredients are mixed. In the case of the classic martini, this can be achieved via a gentle stir, which also doesn’t cause dilution.
Classic or made with a twist, shaken versus stirred, the popularity of the martini has consistently grown over the years. Leading the way are innovators who love the idea of building on a classic and taking the martini to a whole new level. Here are a few favorites found locally in Tampa Bay.
THE PINK FERRY AT ROUX
A party in your mouth is the only way to describe the Pink Ferry Martini from Roux. Smooth Tito’s Handmade Vodka blends with the herbaceous accents of Corsair Red Absinthe, fresh citrus flavors of lemon, St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur, bright blueberries and nutty notes of coconut water. All of these ingredients come together and create a masterful concoction full of fun, flavor and deliciousness.
Who Would Most Enjoy This Martini: Anyone with functioning taste buds. The Pink Ferry Martini is pure magic served in a glass. If you like magic, and I hope you do, order this cocktail.
THE FRENCH MARTINI AT OYSTER BAR
The French Martini provides an even, smooth flavor that cleanses the palate with each sip. Pineapple, lemon juice and Absolut Citron creates a citrus flavor bomb that surprisingly is not overpowering. What makes this martini French? The addition of Chambord, of course. This raspberry liqueur also incorporates Madagascar vanilla, cognac, honey and Moroccan citrus peel, which nicely complements the other citrus flavors.
Who Would Most Enjoy This Martini: The French Martini is great for the martini lover who prefers vodka and seeks layers of refreshing, citrus flavor.
DIRTY RICHARD MARTINI AT ULELE
Ulele’s greatness does not cease with the food—it extends to the bar and drink menu. During my most recent visit to Ulele, General Manager Vince Kassay and I were casually discussing martinis. He simply said, “You have to talk to two of my mixologists, DJ and Patrick. They can make anything you want even if it’s not on the menu.” But I didn’t have to. When looking at the drink menu, the very first cocktail on the list was the Dirty Richard Martini. From first sip to the last drop, I was never disappointed. The surprise and delight of this cocktail was the brine-soaked olive ice cube inside of Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Noilly Prat Original Dry Vermouth that slowly melted with each sip. It’s rare to find a drink that gets more exciting as you finish it. The Dirty Richard does just that.
Who Would Enjoy This Martini: Innovative and ironically simple, the Dirty Richard has a nice, clean flavor profile that will please many who prefer a classic martini and also those who are trying a classic-ish martini for the first time.
TRUFFLE INFUSED MARTINI FROM THE COLLECTION AT THE HALL ON FRANKLIN
The mixologist who envisioned this cocktail has a proclivity for luxury and takes an ingenious approach to enhancing the traditional martini. Amplifying the sophistication of the classic cocktail, the mixologist uses the sous vide method (vacuum sealing and cooking ingredients to a precise temperature) to marry European Perigord black truffles with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Black truffle brine is combined to finish off this lavish cocktail. As if the intricate preparation method was not enough, the rare Perigord black truffles are foraged exclusively for The Collection and delivered weekly. Take your taste buds on a lavish excursion and order this drink when you visit The Collection.
Who Would Enjoy This Martini: Everyone should try this cocktail at least once. And the next time you find yourself in a conversation about drinks you have to try, the Truffle Infused Martini should be on the tip of your tongue and at the top of your list.
SWEET HEAT MARTINI AT MARITANA GRILL
Located in the Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach, Maritana Grill offers a Sweet Heat Martini that will not disappoint. Housemade jalapeño simple syrup is mixed with Stoli vodka, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and fresh muddled strawberries. It’s not uncommon to have two opposing flavor profiles unite in a cocktail to create a delectable alcoholic union, but the addition of lemon and strawberries augments the delight of the Sweet Heat Martini.
Who Would Enjoy This Martini: For those who appreciate opposing flavors that actually work well together, the Sweet Heat Martini is ideal.
MARTINI SPECIALS ACROSS THE BAY
Élevage Restaurant at the Epicurean Hotel
Martini Special: $0.50 Martinis with your lunch on weekdays. Offered from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., it’s hard to pass up a $0.50 martini from Élevage. Perfect for lunch business meetingsor stop in on your next day off.
Martini Special: Happy 4 Hours from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. daily. $5 Smirnoff Vodka martinis are offered featuring The Classic, Espresso,Watermelon, Raspberry, Sour Apple and a Grape Cosmopolitan. Don’t know where to start? Just work your way through this Martini list and find your new favorite.
Bernini of Ybor
Martini Special: $3 Finlandia Martinis all day, every day until 7:00 p.m. With 13 different flavors to choose from, Bernini puts the happy in Happy Hour, ensuring there is at least one suitable option for each customer.