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? about "bar served" Martinis

Years ago, I was told, that to get a good pour when ordering a martini in a bar or restaurant, I should ask for it up, and with no fruit. The reasoning of the person advising me thus, was that ice and those bitter, humongous olives served with the conventional pour took up volumn in the glass and thus resulted in less drink for the dollar.

So, for years now, when dining or drinking out in the neighborhood, That's the way I've been ordering. And, just recently a bartender asked me why I stipulated the drink this way. My quick (and probably weak) response was "I want to savor the taste of the mix."

Have I been following a false assumption for these past years?

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  1. your response is completely legitimate-- any place that puts ice in your martini (without being asked to do so) should be avoided, unless you like watery martinis. ice is more acceptable in a manhattan where it helps to waterize the rye and vermouth.

    1 Reply
    1. re: barleywino

      Well it's half legitimate anyway. I strongly doubt that the per volume price of olives is substantially cheaper than that of even premium gin.

    2. One option is to ask for a lemon twist instead of an olive. Both are standard garnishes.

      Serving it on the rocks seems like an excuse not to stir/not to clean the mixing glass (unless it was requested that way). Insert "shake/shaker" for "stir/mixing glass" as well, I guess.

      1. Your answer "I want to savor the taste of the mix" is why you should order a cocktail. If you were just saying that as an excuse, it seems weird. A proper martini is always served up, in a small portion (max 4 oz.), in a small glass, so that you can sip the entire cocktail before it gets warm. It should be a stirred, not shaken cocktail, so it stays clear and silky on the tongue, it should be made with gin, dry vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters, and served with a lemon twist that is wiped around the rim of the glass. If you want a drink to get drunk on and want bang for the buck, order a shot.

        17 Replies
        1. re: JMF

          Good points, JMF. Thanks for your reply.

          I do love small Spanish olives. Would take them anytime in a martini, up. But haven't seen this choice in years. Seems like all the pubs I frequent use the 1/4 pound olives. And want to give you three to a sword!

          1. re: JMF

            If you put orange bitters in my martini, I'd send it back. I want my gin martini to be just that, gin, vermouth, olives. Thank you very much. If I ask for it dirty, then a small splash of olive juice.

            A martini is a classic for a reason.

            1. re: tzurriz

              Orange bitters and a lemon twist are part of the classic martini recipe. Lack of bitters, and olives, are a very new, relatively speaking, change in the martini recipe. Nowadays if you go to a top cocktail bar you will be served a traditional martini with bitters and a twist.

              1. re: tzurriz

                Perhaps this is a good reason to not order a drink that has so many variables, unless you're going to describe exactly how it should be made or know how the bar makes it or are flexible.

                I'd think the olive order would deter the bitters bottle, though.

                As for myself, I think a proper Martini is made the way I like it. I prefer them shaken with a lot of vermouth (maybe 2:1 or 3:1 at the least), with a big bright green fresh olive from the cheese counter. And I realize that this is not the standard preparation. Why shaken? I like watching the tiny ice slivers in the drink, which melt and keep the drink cold. I like the brutal initial coldness (if you sip it right away and use very cold ice). I like the way the texture of the first few sips changes as the ice melts. I like that my dad liked them that way. But I'm not particular enough to try to get it this way at a bar.

                1. re: EvergreenDan

                  I wouldn't say that an olive would deter the bitters bottle. The lemon twist is there to bring out the citrus components already in the drink, for practically all gins and vermouth have some combination of citrus (lemon, orange, and sometimes grapefruit ) peel in the botanicals.

                  And shaking does not get a drink colder in the end, just gets it there quicker than stirring (20-30 seconds of shaking vs. 90-120 seconds of stirring).


                  1. re: yarm

                    But theoritically shaking would keep the drink colder because the broken bits of ice remain in the drink, right?

                    1. re: KTinNYC

                      Not true, due to a variety of factors, a drink hits a minimum temperature, then stays at that level. So a drink that is properly shaken or stirred comes down to the same temp. and serving in a chilled glass keeps it that way. Shaking vs stirring is mostly about texture and the visual component. A shaken drink is cloudy and may have fine ice crystals in it. A stirred drink has a more sexy, silky, elegant tongue feel. Make the same cocktail shaken vs stirred and check the two out side by side, they will have differences in flavor and texture. traditionally a cocktail made with clear ingredients is stirred, one that has any translucent ingredients like juices, or any opaque ingredients is shaken.

                      If you read Jeffrey Morgenthaler's or Darcy O'Neil's blogs, among others, you can find some serious research on shaking vs stirring, temperatures, dilution rates, ice quality, etc.

                    2. re: yarm

                      Orange bitters AND an olive and no twist? Does not seem to go in my "mind's tongue", but to each their own.

                      I agree that from a physics point of view, prolonged stirring can achieve the same final temperature. From a practical point of view, I'm skeptical that most home or pro bartenders will take 2 minutes. Using cold ice makes a big difference -- for good or bad depending upon your preference.

                      1. re: EvergreenDan

                        15-20 seconds of shaking is equal to 30 seconds of stirring. Good home and pro bartenders do take the time to make a well shaken or stirred cocktail. Or anyway the ones I know who really care about the craft of cocktail making. Maybe I'm lucky that I'm part of the professional mixology/premium cocktail industry, but everyone I know cares about their cocktails and how they are made.

                        1. re: JMF


                          Cliff notes: Comparing a 10 second shake to a 40 second stir, the shaken cocktail was 5 degrees colder. That said, they preferred the stirred, feeling that shaken was too cold.

                          Just tried it at home; 20 second shake was colder than a 30 second stir.

                          1. re: EvergreenDan

                            I love hard proof, but what starting and ending temps did you record? what were the shaker and stirring glass temps?

                            1. re: JMF

                              Well, I'll leave the hard proof the the article because a) I didn't feel like wasting gin, so I used water and b) I didn't have a digital thermometer -- I tasted them to tell the difference.

                              I filled a large pitcher with tap water and stirred it. I filled the glass and tin with this water and stirred them to bring them to a consistent temp. I poured it out and put 3 oz of water into the glass, adding 8 full-sized (unbroken) ice cubes right from my 9*F freezer. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into a room-temp cocktail glass. I then warmed the materials to about room temp with tap water and refilled from the pitcher and stirred to bring them back to a consistent temp. I then put the same materials into the glass and stirred vigorously (but not so much as to break the ice) with a cocktail spoon, for 30 seconds and strained into a second glass. I then tasted both. The shaken water would have warmed up a bit, but was still noticeably colder.

                              The shaken drink was pretty darn close to 32 degrees because there were still a fair number if ice shards. With Gin, the difference between the two techniques might be larger because the freezing point of a Martini is much lower than 32 degrees and the shaken drink reached (pretty much) thermal equilibrium.

                              Of course, this is all just for fun. I don't really think the 5 degrees makes too much difference, and the initial temperature of the ice and the quantity of the ice probably makes a lot more difference.

                          2. re: JMF

                            Am I bruising the gin (in a gin & juice over ice) if I mix by alternately pouring the drink between two cups a few times? Is this method only suitable for vodka and tequila?

                          3. re: EvergreenDan

                            I had a bartender go so far as to take the time to stir one and make me one shaken for comparison and contrast purposes. There was definitely a difference with the shaken one tasting sharper (perhaps the mysterious "bruising the gin/vermouth " concept) as well as more cloudy.

                            The bars around here that want to cocktails well all use jiggers and stir instead of shake when appropriate. Perhaps not most bars, but most bars I choose to return to.

                            1. re: yarm

                              That's because we live in the world of cocktail fanatics and only go to the bars that serve the best made cocktails.

                              1. re: JMF

                                Not sure bitters have any place in today's cocktails, but please feel free to. Contact info should be on Facebook. I need to pull the trigger on my next series of bitters recipes that I've been mentally infusing.

                  2. As far as amount of liquor, I don't think it matters if you get the olives or not. Get them if you like them, don't if you don't like them.
                    Usually the bartender pours the Gin and Vermouth and ice (i never see bitters used unless requested) in a Boston shaker and shakes or stirs then pours it into the cocktail glass, then adds the olive. I don't think they give you less liquor if you're getting olives.

                    1. Any proper bartender is using a jigger, or a pour count, at the very least, to make consistent drinks. Choice of garnish is irrelevant.

                      1. Hi,

                        I have worked in this industry for a long time. Besides bartending, I have designed menu's, trained bartenders, and worked on almost every aspect that is alcohol.

                        Every establishment has standards, a standard pour could be 1.25oz for a shot, a double would be 2.5 oz. Or the standard could be 1oz singles and 2 oz doubles. Martinis usually work out to be about 2oz - 3oz each. Fruity martinis (lemon drops, cosmos etc) will work out to be about the same (actually probably more like 2oz -2.5oz), with about 1oz-2oz of filler (mixer). If you want more bang for your buck, find a alcohol that is good value (grey goose is over rated, but sells like crazy and makes owners lots of $$$). Some establishments have a rocks pour, which will add another half ounce for a buck or two, or maybe you can make your drink a double for 3$ more for example.

                        If you think you are getting shafted, there is a chance you just might be. If a bartender doesn't like you or does shady things. He may short pour you/everybody 1/8 - 1/6 of a shot less, while he is doing this. He is adding up whats he's saving in his head. At a later time, his buddies (and big tippers) come in. Guess who is now getting free drinks (and long pours). Them!!! You probably wont be able to tell what is going on, and you probably cant prove it to his boss, because if this person was any bit smart, he would just do small amounts (I have gotten drinks with no alcohol before, can you believe that!, these are ultra dumb bartenders). If you are in a situation like this, just order your poison neat/rox and ask for your mixer back, aka bourbon neat, coke back.

                        Oh, and if you think that tipping better will get you a longer pour. You are right, depending on the bartenders moral compass of course (or if the bartender is allowed to give a few away every shift, to build clientele). The key to tipping is you must leave a good tip right away. If you are at a establishment that you will not be attending again, the best thing to do is to order a round, and pay cash, look the bartender in the eye, give him the money and say, the rest is for you. The bartender will say thank you! ask your name, shake your hand, or whatever. The key is, he will remember you, for that next round. Now you dont have to wait, you may know his name, and now you can shout it out, and get great service.

                        Hope this helps.
                        I'm a young man, but this is the only industry I know. If anybody has any questions about what goes on behind the scenes of lounges/bars/clubs I may have some insights, so ask away.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: localthre

                          Thank you for the reply, localthre. Illuminating comments here!

                          1. re: localthre

                            "Now you dont have to wait, you may know his name, and now you can shout it out, and get great service."

                            There are names for people who don't think they have to wait their turn and just shout out a bartender's name to try and get served quicker. I won't use these names in this post because it will be deleted but use your imagination. This is coming from someone who has worked and frequented bars.

                            1. re: localthre

                              I've tended bar and I can tell you shouting my name when there's a crowd will not get you faster service or a longer pour - and in some places that kind of pompous behaviour it might get you decked by another customer who was there ahead of you.

                              1. re: maplesugar

                                Decked by another customer, sounds like a great place...
                                I want your job

                                1. re: localthre

                                  It doesn't matter what kind of place it is no customer should shout out a bartender's name to get quicker service and no bartender with any dignity would jump to serve some lout yelling their name.

                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                    Depends on the venue. And I have no dignity, obviously.

                                    The venue I worked at before my most recent, standing room only, packed. I work the hell well, the printer just prints non stop. I have a regular that will tip $5 per bud lite. They yell my name, I stop what im doing, and take 2 secs to open a Bud Lite. Yell my name, I love it. I can be bought, deal with it.

                                    I have other bartenders who are assigned to the rail. I dont have time to stop and figure out who got to the bartop first.

                                    1. re: localthre

                                      I stand by my statement above.

                                      You write below that, "Bottom line is that a good bartender gets the job done, and the guest leaves happy". How can the other 20 people wating before the Bud Lite drinker be happy when they get pushed back a spot every time he yells your name? Also, don't the rest of the great unwashed masses start yelling your name once they see you hop to in response to being called?

                              2. re: localthre

                                Sounds like you work in some high class joints.

                                1. re: JMF

                                  I didn't think my comments would start any arguments, I dont want to step on toes.

                                  Bottom line is that a good bartender gets the job done, and the guest leaves happy. If a bartender jiggers out all his pours great, if he uses counts awesome. Which is better, standard grip or bartender grip? Who cares!!! Whatever works for you, and your clientele. As long as the job gets done efficiently, and to a high standard the guest will be happy right. And thats all that matters.

                                  The job I was referring to was a 20,000 sq ft club. Two full bars, plus 2 satellite bars in the two VIP rooms. My bar was about 25 ft away from the DJ booth. We had 3 wells in our bar, with a barback. My bar was the busiest in the club. Music is very loud, and just for me to hear other bartenders, they have to yell across the bar. The whole dance floor + 1/2 the venue gets funneled to one printer. Mine. Just our section alone would go thru 4-7 cases of redbull, 35-70 FULL bottles of booze on a busy night(I only worked Thurs - Sun nights. People don't really come out until 10:00pm and later. Last call is @ 1:15am. I have walkie talkies and security. When you are that busy, you dont have time to think, you just make drinks. And knowing how to make drinks isnt enough, you have to be encredibly fast. I didn't apply for this job, the bar manager came into my old work on 3 different occasions asking me to work for her, I walkd in, I signed a paper, and they poured me a shot. We have 2large garbages, these get changed maybe 4-6 times in the span of a few hours. They overflow very quick, they get filled w/empty bottles so quick in fact, that all the old ticket orders start to spill out the tops of them before they are dumped. A layer of old paper orders will coat my bar mats, and turn into a paste, that sticks to my shoes. I will be covered in liquor, the bar will be destroyed by the end of the night.

                                  Like I said last call is at 1:15, but I dont get home until 3:30-5am. I dont get dinner, I get no breaks, no 15 minutes, no 30 minutes. I eat right before my shift(I usually start @ 7 or 9), and I bring trailmix and candy bars to snack on when I duck down (You would never see this). Sometimes I literally cant pee, I have to hold it. If I walk away for 5 minutes, all hell breaks loose, only 1 other bartender can keep up with this well (maybe more now?, I dont work there anymore). I order food @ 1am, but it just sits there until 3am so its nice and cold for me. I sleep at 6am or 7am. Because of this, I am positive I have a sleeping disorder. This week alone, I slept maybe 3-5 hours a night (I'm tired, I just dont fall asleep until ultra late, and I wont take sleeping pills). I wake up in the morning with my right arm draped over my eyes, I have conditioned myself to do this because of the sunlight.

                                  This might sound crappy to you, but I love it!!! haha :), I love making drinks, and I love being good at what I do. I love finding new little secrets to bartending more efficiently and better. I love learning new recipes, I could give a rats ass, about some new shot that is some bullshit like pepperment schnapps w/jack D. A year ago, I made a pretty good shot. I will share it, maybe somebody will like it??? A bartender at another club won the Pama competition in cosmo magazine(I never got it/read it, so dont ask what it is, I dunno) with a recipe and gave it to me . I took his base and turned it into my own shot (diff alcohols/tastes, but similar direction). Maybe somebody will like it?

                                  Build in your tin (this is a big shot btw, could also be a martini if you want I suppose).
                                  1/2oz sour mix,
                                  1lemon wedge
                                  1 lime wedge
                                  add more ice
                                  1/2 pama
                                  1/2 cointrea
                                  1oz absolut peach
                                  1oz malibu
                                  short shake
                                  Then I strain into 2 shot glasses(rox glasses, its to much liquid for reg shot glass) (I dont make this for one person, and only regular clientele, its just to time consuming in a busy bar)
                                  Float of champage, or if you wanna get crazy, no champage float of stroh!!! ahahaha

                                  When I first got here, I saw some very good infusion recipes and alcohol knowledge. Just because you aren't a bartender doesn't mean I cant learn from you. I want to know what is cutting edge, what is the latest high end liquor, what is the peatiest scotch out there? I dunno, but thanks to this site, now I do.

                                  Now, I hope you know where I am coming from. If not, so be it.

                                  1. re: localthre

                                    Terrific read, localthre. Thank you!

                                      1. re: localthre

                                        Thanks, localthre, for that insight into your end of the bar tending world.

                                        I won't speak for everyone here, but I am at a different age/stage of my life, where I am more likely to visit high-end fancy joints, or spend 5 or10 minutes "crafting" a well made cocktail at home, than spend 5 or 10 minutes in line to get a drink at a busy dance nightclub.

                                        Occasionally, I need to check myself and keep an open mind, because it is easy to lose sight of the other end of the bartending world, and perhaps even develop some disdain for it.

                                        Keep your stories coming. They are terrific insight into the world of fast-paced jack-n-coke, cosmos, and redbull shooters - and fun to read.

                                    1. re: localthre


                                      We may argue about what makes a good martini, but those others you mentioned "Fruity martinis (lemon drops, cosmos etc)" are NOT martinis. They are cocktails. The glasses in which they are all served are cocktail glasses, NOT martini glasses.