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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.

After a disheartening Raves game,NEVERMORE

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  1. I, too, am sorry you had to go through all this. whatever happened to "the customer is always right"??? Sheesh . . . .

    1. Its shocking I always taught my bartending students in the early 90's that martinis are made with gin and a slight dash of vermouth. Not sure why it was so difficult for the bartender to follow a customers wish.

      1. I had a similar experience a couple of weeks ago in a medium priced Italian restaurant. Ordered a martini up, dry, Saphire. It does not get much simpler than that IMO. The drink I was served was so thick that you could not see the olive. Turns out the server, who also mixed his own drinks, made it with shaved ice. Then got into an argument centered around the usual "that is the way we always make them". Sent it back and two showed up on my bill.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bigjim68

          I think since people starting call themselves mixologist they forgot the most important thing a satisfied customer. If the customer is not satisfied your tips reflect that having worked in the catering field on and off for 20 years that something you never forget. If the drink isnt right remake it without an arguement or question

        2. I check the DC/Baltimore board often since that was the area where I grew up, and this one astounded me. Down here in Austin I know there are people who drink all manner of concoctions and call them martinis, but I have never had a bad martini here. I always ask for regular Bombay and Noilly, 4:1, not dirty, up, and the local bars seem to carry those ingredients. This dirty martini idea is scary, part of a sinister plot to make us give up drinking. At home I actually rinse the olive before dropping it in.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tim irvine

            I thought I was alone in my precision.I pat my garnish dry.

          2. A martini is traditionally 3 to 1 or even 2 to one vermouth. If you use a good vermouth like Dolin or Vya this is a delicious drink.

            If it doesn't have vermouth in it, wouldn't it just be a glass of chilled gin?

            And vodka? Not a martini at all. Just cold alcohol.

            Dirty? Sex can be great when dirty, but a marting that's dirty just means you cannot taste the base alcohol. I guess if it is a vodka based Martini, then dirty is the only way to get any flavor.

            Personally I prefer a Gibson with two onions. The gin and vermouth vary by whim. Plymouth, Hendricks, Catoctin Creek, G'Vine Veraison, Junipero, Old Raj and the new DC Green Hat are current favorites.

            A trip to the bar inspired by reading this left me with the discovery that the only gin in the house is New Amsterdam, a cheap gin we use to make Negronis. It makes a nice Martini in a pinch.

            And any talk of Martini would be remiss if New Heights isn't mentioned. Their fine bar is called the gin joint. The gin bar is better than the food but the food is good and the drink great.

            3 Replies
              1. re: tim irvine

                I use to have a coupla of hardy oldtimers who would accuse me of trying to turn them into a wino, if I did anything more then pass the vermouth bottle over the glass!!

              2. re: wineo1957

                Old Raj makes my favorite martinis. I've yet to have a martini in a bar that rivals what I can make at home. The list of specs I have to give them (type of gin, amount of vermouth, stirred not shaken, extra olive, etc) is just exhausting.

              3. This sort of touches on a topic I saw elsewhere here, some restaurants that have a policy that you can only order drinks off their drinks menu. At first I assumed this was because then they could charge outrageous prices, but it kinda makes sense in a world where there are hundreds of varieties of vodkas and rums, so many new liquors, so many fad drinks. I always thought it was silly when somebody orders a fad drink and expects the bartender to know what it is by name.

                I don't like to have to instruct the bartender on how to mix a drink... I'll mix it my way at home, but at his bar I'll accept his own style. Except there are so many times the bartender asked me how to mix a Manhattan or Rob Roy. I know, not exactly modern drinks. He can make a Sex On The Beach, but not a Rusty Nail.

                5 Replies
                1. re: GraydonCarter

                  In a day and age where there are card files, recipe books, and apps for drink recipes, there isn't a bartender on the planet who has an excuse for not making darned near any drink out there....particularly "classics" like a Manhattan, a Rob Roy, or a Rusty Nail.

                  I can totally see having a formula if a customer just orders a martini, with no specification - but "Beefeater Martini,straight up,shaken very cold,olive." leaves absolutely no room for misinterpretation, and even less room for substituting some corporate policy, especially at a place like Ruth's Chris.

                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                    "some restaurants that have a policy that you can only order drinks off their drinks menu. At first I assumed this was because then they could charge outrageous prices, but it kinda makes sense in a world where there are hundreds of varieties of vodkas and rums, so many new liquors, so many fad drinks. I always thought it was silly when somebody orders a fad drink and expects the bartender to know what it is by name. "

                    I think its yet another sign of the dumbing down of what used to be skilled workers. If the "bartender" learns the drink menu, he'll make every drink the same and that's all he needs to know. You can hire someone do that a lot cheaper than you can hire a skilled bartender who knows legacy as well as keeping up with new developments in his field.

                    A mass market restaurant will stock only certain liquors and ingredients, most likely those recommended by their distributors. A skilled bartender (just like a skilled chef) will tell the restaurant what materials to keep on hand.

                    1. re: MikeR

                      Not to mention the hiring of people as bartenders simply because they are good looking or can throw the bottles around.

                    2. re: GraydonCarter

                      No offense, but where the heck are you drinking?!?!??! ;^)

                      I have NEVER run into this kind of crap in a restaurant or bar -- and I dine out fairly often, and travel around the country eight-12 times a year. No one has ever "restricted" what sort of cocktails I could order, nor have I ever had to explain how to make a drink EXCEPT one time here in Berkeley, where a restaurant automatically makes their Sazeracs with cognac instead of rye, unless you remember to tell them your preference . . . and I forgot. (My fault.)

                      But sunshine is absolutely right: there are card files, computer apps, etc. -- no reason why a bartender can't make any sort of a drink, especially when he/she can always come back to the customer and ask how THEY "prefer" their drink to be made . . .

                      UNLESS . . . bartenders are now like Starbucks "baristas," and all they can do is push a button on a super-automatic machine, pre-programmed to make crappy drinks . . .

                    3. I hear you and sympathize. If I order a Martini and the bartender does not further question me, I better receive gin-white vermouth-twist/olive-up, ice-cold in a decent gin/vermouth ratio. This is the one instance where if I were expecting to get a vodka Martini but received gin I would not send it back because I got what I ordered. The reverse is not the case.

                      "A man must defend his home, his wife, his children and his Martini."
                      -Jackie Gleason