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Vitamin V Martini?

  • m

Herb Caen Days are here - who makes the best Vitamin V Martini in the City?

Link: http://www.sfvisitor.org/visitorinfo/...

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  1. r
    Randy Salenfriend

    1. Harris'
    2. Bix

    1 Reply
    1. re: Randy Salenfriend

      My preference runs to gin too, but you can't beat One Market's $2.50 Herb Caen special--Skyy vodka and Vya vermouth--especially if it's vodka, you gotta taste some vermouth. I don't know how long it runs...

    2. My vote goes to the Pied Piper bar at the Palace Hotel. Wonderful martini's, often charming bartenders and the spectacular Maxfield Parrish Mural to gaze at while sipping..

      1. The best vodka martini is one made with gin instead. In which case, it's actually a martini instead of a bastardization of the real thing.

        20 Replies
        1. re: Tom Hilton

          Ode to wonderful, wonderful Vitamin G

          When I was a young girl and still a bit thin,
          I took my first sip of the nectar called Gin.
          Some find it distasteful and some think it sin
          But I'll ever be singing the praises of Gin.

          The juniper berry, so lovely and green,
          Has a taste quite refreshing--so biting and clean.
          It's a jovial drink that makes everyone kin--
          I'll ever be praising the glories of Gin.

          Oh, Vodka is nice, and Whiskey is wetter,
          But Gin in the bottle or glass is much better--
          Martini or tonic or "neat" as a pin.
          I'll go to my grave nicely pickled in Gin.

          1. re: susan blair

            I used to be very fond of gin (hence my handle) but lately I can't get this paragraph out of my head:

            "The gin was served out to them in handleless china mugs. They threaded their way across the crowded room and unpacked their trays on to the metal-topped table, on one corner of which someone had left a pool of stew, a filthy liquid mess that had the appearance of vomit. Winston took up his mug of gin, paused for an instant to collect his nerve, and gulped the oily-tasting stuff down." -- George Orwell, 1984

            1. re: Juniper

              If George Orwell ever had the pleasure of a well-stirred martini with Boodles gin and mere suggestion of vermouth, he never would have written that...I suggest that the passage was probably inspired by a bad ouzo experience.

              1. re: Paulie
                r
                Rochelle McCune

                Boodles gin - ahhhh! that was what Bruno used to make martinis. I know he was a curmudgeon but I loved him. His martini was widely accepted as the best martini west of the Mississippi and at only $2.50 it was one of the best bargains in the city. I was very sad when he died and even sadder still when I went to the Persian Aub Zam Zam and saw what they have done to his bar. It was crowded and loud and at least have the people there were drinking beers!

                1. re: Rochelle McCune

                  What? Reallly? Crap. I haven't been in there for a few years... This is another sad sad change in a few years of sad changes for SF. Tell me it isn't so.

                  tw

                  1. re: tw

                    Here's my take on this issue. Regardless of how you felt about Bruno, his bar was esthetically beautiful and frozen in time (1941). The new owners (former regulars who never worked in the industry) have washed, varnished, restored and cleaned most of the character out of this landmark - and that includes the jukebox (86’d). Some change is OK, you are running a business, but SF is running out of landmark places. Re-reading Herb Caen’s columns this week about Bardelli’s Etc. has reinforced this notion.
                    So, for those of you who remember Bruno’s being a certain way (and loved it): don’t go back, your memories have been painted over.
                    PS In his later years Bruno himself was forced to switch to vodka martinis; he always laughed at the irony of it.

                  2. re: Rochelle McCune
                    z
                    Zach Georgopoulos

                    Hmm, interesting. I thought that some of Bruno's fetishist followers had taken the place over -- the ones who used to titter ever so quietly but smugly when he'd throw people out for whatever reason came to him (my favorite was when a guy came in wearing a Navy petty officer's coat, and admitted after some cross examination that he was never a naval petty officer -- out with that riff raff!). I used to enjoy the scene there until I realised that there was a small group of people who _never_ got thrown out. Since I was usually better dressed and better behaved than most of them (and still got thrown out once for not having my money on the bar by the time he came back with my drink), it dawned on me that Bruno had more of an agenda than he vociferously proposed -- e.g., it was not propriety he craved, but the limelight! Not to speak ill of the dead -- I actually _liked_ the guy -- but I grew tired of the whole scene years ago. Anyhow, having read that it was some of his "regulars" that bought the place, I figured it would be even more overbearing and oppressive than before (kind of like a bunch of Dungeons and Dragons players running a game store -- I had visions of returning, only to be thrown out for not wearing sock garters). But I guess I was wrong. Hell, it might be worth going back...

                    A side note, but relevant -- Bruno's martini, though gin, was accepted as the best by none other than Herb Caen, a man who drank _vodka_ "martinis" fer cryin' out loud! Caen's another curmudgeon who I liked, but the vodka martini thing was just too much of a transgression of ethics and propriety...

                    1. re: Zach Georgopoulos
                      r
                      Rochelle McCune

                      I can totally understand why people might have distain Bruno and his bar. But when I lived in the upper haight, I considered the Persian Aub Zam Zam as a quiet neighborhood bar where I could go to have a proper drink around civilized people. If you dressed nice, behaved well and treated Bruno and the other patrons with respect, you got to stay. He clearly had his flaws and I disagreed with his politics for the most part I respected him - it was his bar, he got to make the rules and he enforced them.

                      In fact, I loved it the one time when I was in there some guy started hitting on me in an aggressive, unattractive way - Bruno told him "This isn't that kind of bar, if you want to pick up women go to the bar on the corner, its the best bar on the block" and made the guy move to another seat. And as a "regular" I got to enjoy many interesting conversations with other regulars and Bruno (who had some very strange political views for someone running a business so near Haight/Ashbury). I do admit there was a certain thrill to watching Bruno kick out the clueless people, but I also loved it on the occasions when new people would come in, have a shocked look and then immediately "get it". For those people, if I saw they needed help negotiating those first few minutes (order martini NOW, money out NOW), I would do what I could to help. In the five years that I went there regularly, I only got thrown out three times - and only once unjustly.

                      Regarding the new owners - they cleaned up and restored the place but their rent must be high so unlike Bruno, they actually have to make money and are running the place like a business instead of a private clubhouse. The one time I went there under the new management, it was packed - people were sitting at the tables in the back room and standing at the bar (oh, the shock!). But what was really disturbing was that when I ordered a martini, the women behind the bar asked how I wanted it???? So I said I wanted a Bruno martini and she looked at me blankly!!! So then I order a Boords Gin Martini and there was absolutely no recognition in her eyes - I got no napkin, no dollar coin change and the martini was $6.00!!!! And it was pedestrian martini.

                      In sum, whether you loved or hated Bruno, the Persian Aub Zam Zam no longer has anything unique to offer - its just like any other bar in San Francisco.

                      1. re: Rochelle McCune
                        z
                        Zach Georgopoulos

                        I concede the point -- whatever my misgivings about the late Bruno, the place sounds dreadful in it's current state. He, he... I'd forgotten about his "best bar in town" routine -- it was pretty funny!

                        1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                          Who knows? We may yet hear from someone telling us how 'dead' it used to be, how 'fun' and 'lively' it is now, and how anyone who doesn't approve of the change is an 'old fogey'. More appalling arguments have been made in this very forum.

                          (Of course, any resemblance between the above and anything said about the Redwood Room is purely coincidental.)

                          1. re: Zach Georgopoulos
                            r
                            Rochelle McCune

                            Well, I do recommend going some time (when its not likely to be crowded) to check out the restored mural. Its quite nice.

                      2. re: Rochelle McCune
                        j
                        Janet A. Zimmerman

                        Actually, Rochelle, I'm pretty sure it was a gin called Boord's, not Boodles. Although Boodles is a mightly fine gin; one of my favorites.

                        1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman
                          r
                          Rochelle McCune

                          Janet,
                          You're right! I don't know what I was thinking.It was Boords. For years I thought he used Boodles, then when he died they printed his brand choices of gin and vermouth in his obit. I went out and bought them both and tried to make a Bruno martini - while it was better than my previous martinis, it just didn't taste the same as his.

                        2. re: Rochelle McCune

                          Rochelle bemoans: "...even sadder still when I went to the Persian Aub Zam Zam and saw what they have done to [Bruno's] bar. It was crowded and loud and at least have [sic] the people there were drinking beers!"

                          Alas, chere Rochelle, what now is called "progress", is actually "progressive decline". It is left to those of us who enjoy a well-mixed martini--among other simple pleasures--to keep the spirit alive.

                        3. re: Paulie

                          When gin is bad, it is *very* bad...I recall parties in college with the Safeway house brand that could easily have inspired Orwell's passage...

                          Our house gin is Tanqueray, because that's what my sweetheart prefers, but my favorite is Bombay Sapphire. It's the smoothest gin I know, and I can drink much drier martinis with Sapphire than with other gins. (Not that I ever subscribe to the 'wave the bottle' method. A martini has to have vermouth or it isn't a martini; if 7:1 was good enough for Fitzgerald, it's good enough for me.)

                          1. re: Tom Hilton
                            j
                            Janet A. Zimmerman

                            Have you ever tried Tanquery 10? It's not my favorite gin, but when I want something really smooth, it's a great change.

                            1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman
                              z
                              Zach Georgopoulos

                              Tanqueray seems to be branching out a lot nowadays. A friend recently brought me a bottle of Tanq Malacca Gin ("Original 1839 Recipe" sez the label). Very smooth and sort of fruity...

                        4. re: Juniper
                          z
                          Zach Georgopoulos

                          Juniper! Keep in mind that Orwell was describing a less than ideal future -- I presume that gin would be considerably below current standards in the world of "1984"...

                      3. re: Tom Hilton
                        z
                        Zach Georgopoulos

                        Yea, Brother!

                        I've always felt that the "vodka martini" should be called "flavorless vodka in a cocktail glass mixed with some vermouth." It would save a lot of confusion...

                        1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                          Amen to you both. I've had martinis at friends' houses, to avoid the vodka-laden premade drinks passed around on trays, and often been very dissappinted by finding what looked to be a lucious martini was in fact a yucky vodka martini. I'm always impressed when someone knows the difference.