Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >
Oct 2, 2012 07:44 PM

Best Martini in Boston

Staying at the Marriott Long Wharf...can anyone tell me where the best martini is made? We sometimes take the T to Cambridge...and I've heard plenty of bars over there.
So, other than the hotel bar, where is the best classic martini?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There are many bars in Boston that can execute a worthy martini. Pretty much every luxury steakhouse, five-star hotel bar, and the ten or so bars that hew to the of-the-moment craft cocktail style will pour a beauty. I think the choice is more about atmosphere.

    Cozy and hidden feeling, but still luxurious? Maybe the Rowes Wharf Bar at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Hotel luxury? Perhaps the Bristol at the Four Seasons, the Avery Bar at the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common, the Bar at The Taj, or the Oak Long Bar & Kitchen at the Fairmont Copley Plaza (which might have the nicest Martini service in town, accompanying your drink with a carafe of shaker overflow set in a cunning little ice bucket).

    Something that says Olde Boston? Maybe the Last Hurrah at the Omni Parker House, which is a bit worn but has a lot of history. A warm-enough night to sit outside and enjoy a fine Waterfront view? The roof deck at Legal Harborside is pretty easy to take with an icy cocktail in front of you.

    My favorite is the craft cocktail kind of place. They'll offer you a couple of recipe alternatives grounded in a scholarly knowledge of the cocktail tradition dating back to the 19th century, stock many unusual options for gin and vermouth and bitters, make a thoughtful choice of ice (yes, they're that serious), and maybe serve your carefully measured and stirred libation in a vintage coupe. I'd recommend Drink (that's its name) over in Fort Point, the bar at No. 9 Park near the State House, the bar at Clio in the Eliot Hotel, or The Hawthorne at the Hotel Commonwealth.

    Any of the dozen luxury steakhouses that dot the Back Bay, Downtown, and the Waterfront would do. I'm not so fond of national chains, so I prefer Grill 23, a rare locally-owned place with a nice, clubby (and loud) ambiance. Mooo.... at the XV Beacon hotel is another non-chain option which is quieter and prettier, with fewer of the genre's decor cliches.

    I can even think of some less-fancy joints with saltier crowds that still take their cocktails seriously, like Silvertone and jm Curley, both in Downtown Crossing. Lots of lovely perches for martini connoisseurs here.

    14 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      I made the mistake of ordering my usual Hendricks at the Oak Long Bar which was brought out and shaken to shit tableside for me to witness the horror. So after glugging that bucket I promptly ordered another one (beefeaters), this time one of those dirty atrocities with bleu cheese stuffed olives which I have an occasional need for. Two bucket-tinis will certainly bring the rowdy. Not exactly a civilized cocktail, but cozy is the word as noted above.

      1. re: Nab

        I, too, confess a twisted fondness for the bluecheese-tini (also with Hendrick's). Petit Robert in Needham actually makes my favorite one, though maybe that's because it has become a Friday ritual.

        I remember Four Winds in the North End having a surprisingly great martini (close to Long Wharf) but haven't been in a number of years.

        1. re: nsenada

          It's barbaric boors like you who pollute Hendricks in such a manner that convince me the only place in which to enjoy a civilized cocktail is the comfy confines of my club.

          (speaking of such horrors, I once witnessed a woman order a bleu-cheese-tini at the Hawthorne - she said she had been trying every version in town and ranked it high in the pantheon. i plan on having one soon. anonymously.)

          1. re: Nab

            She got a bleu-cheese-tini at The Hawthorne? I'm guessing that means some poor barback had to run to the kitchen to hand-stuff a few of them.


        2. re: Nab

          You have to be careful. Since its renovation, the Oak Long Bar has become a magnet for cutpurses, sharpers, grifters and bounders of every stripe. After watching you down three of those gin-buckets, some charlatan in a well-cut suit is bound to try to sidle up and run The Spanish Prisoner on you. Beware!

        3. re: MC Slim JB

          A martini is hard to place on a spectrum where there is a clear standout.. its hard to mess up cold gin. I would give points to a place with a selection of olives and of course carrying the the varieties of gin that you like.

          MC Slim is correct in the current trend of using coupe glasses, but heck, pour one for me in a mason jar and it would still taste good.

          1. re: grant.cook

            While I agree on the face of it I do maintain that martinis are Place Specific. I have long said that if you make a five ounce martini to your exact specifications and then divide it into two equal parts, one of those drinks will taste better than the other depending on where it is consumed and in what vessel. The one in the Copley or Locke-Ober will taste better than the other one in the bleachers at Fenway (assuming you got it past the guards).

            1. re: hazelhurst

              i agree with your premise, but disagree with the conclusion. Everything tastes better in the bleachers at Fenway when the Red Sox are winning. And it tastes best of all if they are crushing the Yankees.

              1. re: ChinaCat

                Fair's about the bar at Jake Wirth as substitute?

            2. re: grant.cook

              my martini drinking friends prefer dutch gin and french vermouth; i never order a martini from a bar.

                1. re: rlee21

                  I hope not - that stuff would totally alter the character of a martini. Might as well sub in jagermaester.

                2. re: cambridgedoctpr

                  I prefer British Gin and Italian Vermouth. Makes a fabulous Martini! I always order a Martini from a bar, unless it's a beer drinking establishment.

            3. Making a great martini is more difficult then most think. Back in the day I had my choice spots when in the mood for a martini.
              If you want one during the day, head over to bond at the Langham hotel. Ask for Eddie
              McGuire, he is a great bartender.
              The Bristol Lounge is a good choice. Sam's and Strega on the waterfront too.
              Also, I always like to sit at the bar when having martini. I like watching the process and when needed, able to add my input.
              All the places mentioned by slim are nice places. The bar drink is downstairs and IMHO without atmosphere. It's basically a meeting place after work/ pick up joint.

              11 Replies
              1. re: libertywharf

                You and I have been to two completely different "Drink"s!

                1. re: Alcachofa

                  Well, it is tough to argue with the notion that it is downstairs. Otherwise, I agree: it sounds like a description by someone who has never been there.


                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    If libertywharf has been to Bond he/she should know a pickup meat market scene when he/she sees one!

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      OMG it so is!

                      Not a place for a relaxing martini unless it's at 3pm

                      1. re: LeoLioness

                        During the day when I suggested to go to Bond, it's mostly business people and carry overs from the Julien Bar. If you've ever been to bond during the day, you would have known this. Nothing wrong with pick up joints, just thought I'd point it out.

                        1. re: libertywharf

                          I don't get to bars nearly enough in the middle of my work day, I admit.

                      2. re: MC Slim JB

                        No problem slim, I have my doubts on your reviews as well. Stop by Bond during the day and get a martini from eddie. See for yourself that during the day, it's not a pick up joint. If you're suggesting that bond isn't relaxing at night because it's crowded, then you just went against your own review of drink, which is always crowded at night, with often a line out the door which can take 45 minutes to get thru.

                        1. re: libertywharf

                          Um, I didn't say anything about Bond. I agreed with Alcachofa that your take on Drink as "without atmosphere... basically a meeting place after work/pick up joint" seems way off base. But you are correct: it is often crowded and does often have lines out the door.


                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Well you challenged if I have been to drink. My bad on the bond reference, I see now that chamster made that remark

                            1. re: libertywharf

                              Sorry, I didn't mean to say, "I don't believe you've been there", rather, "That doesn't sound like the bar I know at all." I guess I'd go further and call your take on Drink oddly dismissive, as though deliberately ignoring or missing the point of the place. But divergent opinions make the world go 'round.


                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                "It is tough to argue with the notion that it is downstairs."

                                Oh man. That slayed me.

                  2. Any bar with Plymouth gin and a bottle of good vermouth that the bartender waves in a circle around an ice-filled shaker in which the gin is stirred is good. All the old school hotel bars in town know how to pour gin over ice and keep it freezing cold before pouring into a glass. The restaurants in town, without exception, do great jobs, too. It's the "bone dry, please" phrase from the customer that sparks the gambit. The atmosphere is a different matter altogether. I mean: I had a good martini @ Wonder Bar in Allston last week, but the vibe for gin wasn't as much fun as having a martini at Fairmont Copley. Of course, the difference in price is a key factor. That martini @ Wonder Bar was $11. The martini at Fairmount is $18. If you think it's worth $18 for a martini, rock on. Not me.

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: scotty27

                      Wow. I only drink the occassional dinner cocktail a few times a year, so I'm totally out of my element here, but is that what cocktails at these places really cost? $18? Is that high, low, or average?

                      1. re: FinnFPM

                        The range is $9-$18 for a 3 ounce pour. A 32 ounce bottle of Plymouth is $33.

                      2. re: scotty27

                        Gin w/o vermouth is not a martini.

                        1. re: jgg13

                          De gustibus and all, but I also think the "mine is dryer than thine" martini camp is just drinking chilled gin, and while that's not bad if that's what you like, it's not a cocktail. My own preference is about 5-to-1 with a drop or two of orange bitters, which puts me somewhere between Nick and Nora Charles (the typical 1930s martini was about 3:1) and the Mad Men era (where popular taste had dried out to about 10:1 and the use of bitters had disappeared).


                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Other than private clubs that I browbeat friends into taking me to, the classics for me in town are Locke-Ober and The Ritz..the Real One on Arlington Street (I don't care what they call it). My father, who was the original Man In The Brooks Brothers Suit, had his martinis in NEw York mixed at 8:1 but he said the Boston Ritz bartender did a great job. I used to take a bottle of Peychaud's bitters in there to add a drop or two..this was when the bar ran parallel to the hallway. The last time I was in town a friend and I had a couple at Locke-Ober in those little shot-glasses they used to have thirty years ago.(The bartender gave us two in 1980). I have not had anything in the Last Hurrah in years and, in fact, my last visit there was Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. It has unpleasant memories. Not their fault, though.

                            1. re: hazelhurst

                              We, too, loved that Ritz bar & the accompanying little carafe to top off.

                            2. re: MC Slim JB

                              Once I discovered that not all vermouth was some rancid, cheap crap that sat at a bar rotting away for years I started digging 4-1 combinations. I've gone with 3-1 on my manhattans for a long time now and over time evolved towards 3-1 in my martinis as well.

                              I don't care if someone really just wants a glass of gin or even if they want to dress it up with a few drops of this or that. But I don't like calling it something that it ain't.

                            3. re: jgg13

                              Winston Churchill's recipe for the perfect Martini: "Glance at the vermouth bottle briefly while pouring the juniper distillate freely."

                              1. re: scotty27

                                Yep, the Churchill quote is a very popular justification for no-vermouth martinis. FDR did not go that way, favored a vermouth-heavy ratio and liked to add a few drops of absinthe -- and he ended Prohibition. Plus, cocktails are an American invention: until very recently, Brits were pretty clueless about them.

                                A no-vermouth martini is still not a cocktail in my book, but I'm all for people liking what they like.


                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  Another Churchill martini "recipe" involves pouring the gin, and then merely bowing towards France (as the home of dry vermouth). Let's just say I wouldn't want him making my drinks, but I wouldn't want Gary Regan leading the war effort.

                                  I like 4:1, Beefeater or Plymouth to Noily Prat and orange bitters.

                                  I was reminded the other day of the fact that, for basic martinis, Bakey's made quite acceptable ones (not hard to do) for "cheap money" (as they say in these here parts). Bakey's was not notable in any other way, however. Well, the sign was cool.

                                  1. re: Alcachofa

                                    I've heard another one about letting light pass through the bottle of vermouth to strike the mixing glass.

                                    I found the Bakey's sign a bit creepy.


                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      If you write to the American National Standards Institute,they will send you their Standard and Safety Manual for the American Standard Dry MArtini, including stirring intructuctions (clockwise versus counterclockwise) olive displacement, and a diagram of the illumination method you are talking about. It is very funny. A Gibson is described as "an upardonable offense" and refers the reader to "see onion soup.""

                                      1. re: hazelhurst

                                        Well, obviously. Who stirs counter-clockwise? Maybe people in *Russia*.


                                2. re: scotty27

                                  And Churchill should be viewed as a cocktail authority why exactly?

                                  1. re: jgg13

                                    Probably because he drank more in his lifetime than any of us writing about martinis on the posting ever have or ever will. Thank goodness.

                                    1. re: scotty27

                                      Yeah, but so did Bukowski, and I don't think I'd ask his advice on cocktails, either.


                                      1. re: scotty27

                                        Sidewalk Sammy in central square has probably drank more in his lifetime than anyone chiming in on this thread. I can assure you that you don't want to take his advice on drinks or much of anything. He did once promise he'd buy me a jet though, so that's something.

                              2. My favorite classic 1950's style Martini is at Lucky's during Sinatra Sundays. Also right next to Drink if you want to hit both in one trip.

                                Can't go wrong with the Hawthorne for a nice laid-back atmosphere and great bartenders. If you want someplace with more bustle, Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar, also part of the Jackson Cannon empire, make some great drinks as well with more food options.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: nickls

                                  Those all sound great. Is it Sinatra every Sunday? What a hoot.

                                  1. re: scotty27

                                    It is, both Brunch and at night, and apparently they have extended it to Saturdays as well from 7-10PM. It is popular so you need to get there early if you want to stake out a prime spot.

                                    Sadly Al Vega, who was a real trip and a great performer, is no longer with us, but the band and singing is still good.

                                2. Must add Locke-Ober to the list. Given the classic vibe I think the OP is looking for, I would think it would be at the top of the list.

                                  7 Replies
                                    1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                      Locke-Ober has maybe the coolest historic dining room in the city, but I deliberately left it off my list because they seem to purposely have mediocre bartending, as if to discourage people from considering it a drinking destination. I've always thought that was a shame, but it appears to have remained a constant despite changing hands twice in recent years.

                                      The newest owners dropping the jackets-for-men requirement hasn't helped the ambiance, either. That's the times we live in, of course, but it seem a particular shame there.


                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        Maybe 10 years ago they had great bartending, but only if you were or were a guest of one of the 5-10 regulars who was at the bar every night. I think they are more accomodating now, they may even make a good drink for someone whose prefix is MC.

                                        1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                          I am distressed to hear that. I've not been a regular there in many years but on my trips to town I've never had a problem with the drinks but I stick to basics in there. I was not around for the pre-Shire nosedive, when one of the later investors told me he walked out on his birthday dinner becuae it was so poor. I hope they can hang on until the Filene's hole is filled and at least some business comes back. It would be a crime to lose it. I loved anchovies Winter Place and their old Cream of Tomato soup, in the 1960's and 1970's as my favorite.

                                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                                          Too bad because the bar is the coolest part about Locke Ober.