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Where to find the best classic gin martini?

In my youthful 20s I had a friend who introduced me to the classic gin martini. When he and I parted ways I went back to drinking wine only. In the last year or so I've become enamored of the classic martini once again. I've started sampling them all over town. I've found some great ones (Central!) and some really bad ones (you shall remain nameless). I'm just wondering, where can I find a really great classic gin martini? And by the way, I like them neat, and not dirty. And unlike James Bond, I don't care if they're shaken or stirred.

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  1. that's what's so sad: one has to say "a classic gin martini" and still specify further. I don't drink them any more but when I did the only distinction was 'up' and olive or twist.

    note to others: just because it's served in a cocktail glass does not make it a Martini </hrumph>

    steakhouses. old hotels. stuffier the better. had a good one at the Willard back about when I gave them up (round bar).

    2 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      In this town (DC), if you say martini, the waiter or bartender just assumes vodka. Vermouth and vodka? Yeccch! Oh ... that's why they make them very dry.

      I'm still stuck somewhere in the last mid-century. The only martini gin for me is Beefeater.

      By the way, a friend and were very surprised to get a great martini at the bar/restaurant in the Watergate right across from the Kennedy Center parking garage entrance. I keep forgetting the name, but it used to be recycled Dominique's. There's a bartender there who really knows how to make one, and with 3 olives, it was dinner!

      1. re: hill food

        I get you -- too many sweet drinks out there masquerading as 'martinis.' I guess I'm showing my age, but to me, a martini is not a sweet drink. It's a grown-up drink. I definitely get that steakhouses could serve a good one -- since I eat steak about once a year I've missed that opportunity. I'll most certainly be paying a visit to the Round Robin in the near future. Thanks!

      2. I'm thinking the Town and Country, the bar at the Mayflower Hotel.

        2 Replies
          1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

            Wow, I haven't been to the bar at the Mayflower since about 1985! Think I'll make a visit there soon -- thanks!

          2. Cafe Montmarte in Reston does a good one - actually turned me on to them.

            I ordered one at Ozio in January. Had to specify that I wanted the classic. Had to specify that I wanted vermouth. The bartender even had the waitress check back with me. She chose to try to sell it to me that there'd barely be a hint of vermouth. I firmly instructed that I prefer a 5-2 ratio - and so the dryness myth can be tossed out - along with the vodka.

            1. I've had excellent wet martinis at Restaurant Eve and PX. Plymouth Gin, two parts gin, one part dry vermouth, half a part sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters. A dash of olive brine if you want it FDR style.

              2 Replies
              1. re: monkeyrotica

                I like a really dry martini, the kind where the bartender waves the vermouth bottle over the glass. And I really don't like olive brine. I think if I ordered the kind of martini I like at PX, Todd would probably throw me out of the place! In fact, I've been to PX and I purposely did not order a martini. Loved the drinks I did have, though.

                1. re: Lauman

                  PX will make your martini whatever way you want: wet, dry, extra dry, Plymouth gin, what have you. Although, I usually steer towards whatever Todd's been experimenting with. His "ex-smoker" cocktail using an extra smokey scotch and a drop of distilled tobacco "tea" was amazing. Last I heard, he was working on a "menthol" version with mint.

              2. The Bombay Club makes a mean gin martini. And it goes famously with their delicious Indian food.

                1. I second Round Robin at the Willard, Bombay Club, and would like to add that the bar at Zaytinya when not packed (early in the evening) makes a good one.

                  Your rightCentral's are good. I would also think Gins at PS7 could make a good one although like going to PX it is hard not to order something more complicated.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ktmoomau

                    We have reservations at PS7s in a couple of weeks and I am looking forward to experiencing Gina's artistry. Hadn't thought of ordering my kind of martini there as she is so talented in making exquisitely exotic drinks.

                  2. Easy - go to the Gin Joint at New Heights in Woodley Park. Bartender knows his gin and knows what he is doing, plys you'll find gins that you've possibly never seen before.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: katecm

                      Thanks for the suggestion. I've been wanting to try New Heights and this is a great incentive. I wouldn't mind a tutorial on great gins!

                    2. I always had good luck at the District Chophouse, the Capital Grille, and the Palm. Those guys are used to making martinis and will make them as you specify.

                      BTW, and I don't mean to sound snooty or anything, but "neat" is when a single alcohol is served room temperature, straight out of the bottle, generally with a glass of water on the side. I think the term you're looking for is "straight up" or "up", which is when the alcohol is chilled over ice and then strained. I make this distinction because I actually watched someone insist to a bartender that "neat" was how he wanted his martini, not "up." Imagine his surprise, when the bartender complied and he received a warm martini. Ick.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: FoodieGrrl

                        Hey, thanks for the information. You know, I had always used the term 'straight up' to describe a drink without ice in the glass. Then, about a month ago, a very snotty server 'informed' me that I wanted it 'neat.' Not being a professional bartender, I thought I'd been wrong all this time. Thanks for letting me know I wasn't.

                        1. re: Lauman

                          you were right - the only alternative to a martini served 'up' is 'over' (on the rocks) and that's not a martini IMHO - almost as bad as one 'neat' maybe the British are ok with warm gin, but then a martini isn't originally British.

                      2. I love this thread because I love gin martinis. I have actually found it hard to find a good classic martini, biggest sins are warm or dliuted with ice. And bad ollives..... I had a very good martini at Vermillion in Alexandria. I am also a fan of Beefeater. I had a very good martini made with Hendrick's (Hediricks?) at Central.

                        2 Replies
                          1. re: milocat

                            Hendricks is great - which reminds me of another good martini I've had recently. Ice House Cafe in Herndon.

                          2. For those who are also searching...found the best one yet! Went to CityZen on Friday evening and was served the best gin martini I've had in this city so far.

                            1. I cannot remember the name of the place I was at in Baltimore, but the gin was Tanqueray 10. Fantastic martini.

                              1. I will gladly add that Mon Ami Gabi DOES NOT do a good one - even with the request. Too "trendy" I guess. Ozio also has a hard time with the classic. No one seems to believe that you want *Gin* and *Vermouth*. Together.

                                1. salad man about 21 hours ago
                                  your choice of drinks, as long as we agree

                                  The above is a paraphrase of a Henry Ford quote. But this one I made up after a series of incidents at a Ruths Chris Steak House in Pikesville,MD(suburb of Balto.)

                                  In September 2012 while at this restaurant I ordered a "Beefeater Martini,straight up,shaken very cold,olive." Now I have been ordering this exact drink since April 17, 1960,the day I turned 21. A time when Martini meant gin, dry white vermouth to taste and an olive or lemon peel twist.

                                  Now I am very aware that James Bond rocked my world a bit with the
                                  choice of vodka. I am also cognizant that over the past 10 years many have invented fruity,treacly sweet concoctions served in Martini glasses.
                                  There are even "Shrimptinis"

                                  I,however, believe that a supposedly top tier steak house's bartender
                                  could still fill my classic drink order properly. I WAS WRONG WITH A VENGEANCE.

                                  The first drink I received was so loaded with olive brine that it was undrinkable and I had not even ordered a "dirty martini." When I got my waitresses attention I explained the problem and said "all I want is the gin,a little vermouth, and this time I'll try a twist." And she says,"Oh,we make all of our martinis with vodka and we never put vermouth in them."
                                  I responded by saying "even when the customer orders gin by brand and now asks for vermouth. Please ask your bartender to make it my way." I got my drink. All was now right with the world.:I thought.

                                  The episode bugged me. What primarily bothered me was "is this really
                                  Ruths Chris POLICY. I found that hard to believe,so the next day I called
                                  manager. His assistant told me" oh no that is our POLICY." I told her I was stunned that a customer's order would be totally disregarded in a top of the line restaurant,"even Burger King does it my way." She apologized and said she would take it up with her manager, and to please "give us another chance."

                                  I did. In November friends suggested Ruths Chris and I said what the hell,let's see what happens. Even worse. When I order this time I am very specific and am again told of the POLICY(with a great deal of attitude.) I am now in total anger management mode, and tell her I still want gin to which she comes back with "and do you want red or white?"
                                  I am momentarily puzzled and ask "red or white?' to which she responds
                                  "Vermouth.I have many customers who prefer the red in their martinis."
                                  And with every ounce of self control I can muster "white" She leaves and through a busboy I summon the manager and relate what has just happened,with the waitress at his side.He expresses shock and apologizes. I ask him to get a different server and we finish the evening.

                                  I put in a call to Steve De Castro,the franchisee of about eight RC restaurants. He gets back to me in a couple of days and we have
                                  a very frank and pleasant conversation during which he in turns seems to be stunned at the stupidity of it all ,angry at how I have been treated,
                                  and apologetic.He implores me to wait two weeks, try us again and you will be happy. Against all better judgement I say I will.

                                  NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED
                                  After a disheartening Raves game,NEVERMORE
                                  PRINT EMAIL LINK FLAG

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: salad man

                                    how does a steakhouse get it so horrendously wrong?

                                    OK sure in the privacy of your home put red vermouth in a glass of chilled vodka if you like, but to let that be even close to a default for a martini at a well-known brand? uhh-unhh, that's an opt-in request.

                                    1. re: salad man

                                      Your tale is similar to many I've had, and the reason I never order a martini unless I know they are able to make me a proper one, although I applaud your courage on trying a second time.

                                    2. The Gin Joint at New Heights is THE place to go for a Martini. Note the lack of modifier needed... if it's a Martini, it IS gin

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: wineo1957

                                        Yes, I hate the fact that I have to specify gin anymore. And also that vermouth isn't a bad thing. Fwiw, I learned on the spirits board here a great ratio of 5:2 rather than the "standard" 4:1.

                                      2. You have to try out Wisdom on Penn Ave SE. Out of the way, but check out its history. This is the place to get micro distillery gin drinks.

                                        1. Not Ruth Chris! Read the other post on this subject...hilarious...