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Nov 22, 2013 12:20 AM

Best "classic" martini

Looking for the best extra dry gin martini.....Straight up with olives please.

We are not talking about the new fad concoctions in stem glassware but a real old school cocktail, maybe produced by an old school bartender in a historic Boston lounge.
Where can I find the best one?
Many thanks for your replies.

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  1. I think a lot of this would be based on your preference for a specific brand of gin (you are looking for a gin martini, correct?)

    1. The best martinis my wife and I ever have are made at home by us. Guaranteed spot on every time. (Well, most times, anyway. Sometimes depends on how many martinis preceded the current one.)

      Martinis seem like such simple things: gin, a little vermouth, olives, and voila!

      But true aficionados know it's a lot more complicated:

      * what brand of gin
      * what brand of vermouth
      * how much vermouth
      * stirred or shaken
      * how big a martini glass
      * martini glass chilled/not chilled
      * what kind of olives
      * how many olives

      When we go out and have a cocktail, we try something other than martinis, because we know there is such a great chance of being disappointed. Like you, we are quite particular about our martinis.

      Good luck in your quest, though.

      1. My default answer is, shame on any mid-scale to upscale bar that can't fill this order properly. But we all know there are degrees of execution here. Some triangulation on your preferences is necessary.

        In my book, an extra dry Martini is faddish: we old-school types prefer a healthy dose of vermouth, and do not fear stemmed cocktail glasses, though a pre-war coupe is preferable to those more modern triangular things.

        What are your preferred gins and vermouths? Are you an orange bitters person? If so, do they have to be made in-house? Do you believe shaking is anathema, or was Bond onto something? Where do you stand on pimiento-stuffed olives? Shouldn't gin Martini drinkers just say Martini? Measure or free-pour? Does it taste better if the bar has no exterior sign?

        Is a friendly demeanor from the bartender essential, or is attitude trumped by technical excellence? How old-school must old-school be: bow tie, waistcoat, sleeve garters, W.B. Mason facial hair? Or just a necktie, a long apron, and a faint eyeroll at the vodka/soda guy?

        What about ambiance? Does a sardine-packed house and 90-decibel soundtrack enhance or diminish the experience for you? Would you be happier to see a block of icehouse ice and maybe a Kold-Draft cube maker? What's the minimum acceptable level of complimentary salty bar snack?

        In all seriousness, your obvious answer for a well-made classic cocktail in untrendy, genteel surroundings is the lobby bars of better hotels, luxury steakhouses, and private clubs if you can get access to them.

        15 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          It's hard to say that using less vermouth is a fad, when every drink at our favorite craft cocktail places seem to be made with some vermouth or vermouth-like ingredient. Dry vermouth has not much to offer in my opinion, but I'm sure someone will tell me about some wonderful handmade dry vermouth, so I'll just go with to each his own when it comes to Martinis.

          1. re: ScotchandSirloin

            I'm being facetious, but also factual in historical terms. Dry is a comparatively new preference: faddish in the way that automobiles over horse-drawn carriages are.

            The earliest Martinis were about 50/50 gin:vermouth. Popular preference got to around 75/25 by the 30s, and didn't hit the modern ultra-dry 90/10 and drier till the 50s and later. Let us not speak of the modern preference for chilled, naked super-premium vodka, let alone "dirtiness".

            Seriously, I'm all for people liking what they like. I mix what makes my guests happy, even though I wish they'd try the things I like once in a while.


          2. re: MC Slim JB

            I am also a martini fan and would love some recommendations of where to go. However, I like my martinis not too dry (maybe a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio) and with a lemon twist, no olives ever. I love orange bitters in my martinis and like Plymouth, Death's Door and Beefeater gin. Well, to be honest, I like most gins. Not Hendricks so much, but otherwise I haven't found many that I don't like. I also like a bright and citrus-y vermouth.

            I love the atmosphere of The Last Hurrah and that seems like it would be the perfect place to drink a martini, but they do a fairly awful job of it. I've had good martinis and Brick & Mortar and JM Curley, but would love somewhere a bit mellower and quieter that still makes a good drink. Any thoughts?

            1. re: maillard

              I know this (almost) always comes up when someone says "JM Curley but quieter," but their back space, bogie's place, is

              a. much quieter

              b. has a fairly extensive list of gins, vermouths, and accoutrements (as the menu puts it) to make a martini with. I think they default to a 3:1 ratio. menu here:

              Bogie's has I think 3 bar seats that I can't say i've ever seen full (even on the weekends when the tables are), so it would be a good place to stop in for a well-made martini...

              1. re: valcfield

                Oh, thanks! I guess I forgot that Bogie's Place has bar seats. I will definitely check that out.

              2. re: MC Slim JB

                If I ask for a martini and I get anything lower than 75/25 gin/vermouth (or if it's vodka) it's getting sent back. If they make it at 1/3 to 40% vermouth they get a bigger tip.

                1. re: jgg13

                  how many places do you actually get these ratios without a specific request? not being snarky, just askin'. having worked in fine dining since the 80s, you are in a tiny minority who still drink them this way.

                  i can't tell you how many martinis with zero vermouth got sent back or complained about because they "weren't dry enough."

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    I was actually the one being snarky. I'd only specify ratios, and it amazes me how often they're still overly dry even after specifying. That is when I really do send it back.

                    What REALLY annoys me are when people make manhattans w/ not enough vermouth, but that's a different thread.

                    1. re: jgg13

                      How much vermouth should be in a manhattan and which bars in Boston serve them properly?

                      1. re: jgg13

                        a far bigger pet peeve is bars that make "manhattans" without bitters.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          Grosss... Which bars in Boston do that? I will avoid them for sure.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              or using a good rye with a clearly inferior sweet vermouth

                    2. re: jgg13

                      I prefer 3:1 normally but have actually gotten into 50:50 recently as a great aperitif.

                      That said, I would never leave the ratio to chance, lest I get a shaken glass of vodka. It only took a couple of bad experiences before I realized that a martini is one of the few drinks where being super specific is expected.

                  2. And as a writer in a magazine once put it "Its hard to mess up cold gin"..

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: grant.cook

                      That is true.

                      Except a martini is not just cold gin. Ergo, that writer was a doofus.

                      The bar at the Taj probably comes close to what the OP is looking for.

                    2. I think the Oak Bar makes excellent old-school martini's. I have not been there since they re-opened as Oak Long Bar, but I understand they still have the classic martinis, served in small carafes on ice.

                      they are pricey. But awfully good.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ChinaCat

                        The Oak Long Bar martinis are made the way you want (dry, extra dry, etc), are $18, but are basically almost 2 drinks with the small side carafe. Don't recall if they shake or stir (I'm a stir man myself), but the wife is the martini drinker. Actually your best bet may just be one of the newer bars who put a lot of stock in drink craft. I was at the Hawthorne the other night, and a woman ordered a dry Hendrick's martini with muddled cucumber and proclaimed it the best one she'd ever had. If they can pull that off, I'm sure they can make you a good martini with olives.

                        1. re: ChinaCat

                          I can confirm that the Oak Long Bar still does Martinis in its pre-renovation style, at the same ouchy prices. The rest of their cocktails have gotten more affordable. It's a zoo on weekend nights, so their repositioning seems to have succeeded spectacularly.


                          1. re: ChinaCat

                            I've had these and it was great fun, it's sort of old-time big-city.