LONDON | The martini's heyday began almost a century ago, but today's bartenders have some innovative takes on the classic cocktail.
"People have become much more educated in what they're drinking" and don't just go for the "obvious choices," says Anna Sebastian, bar manager at the Artesian bar at the Langham, in London.
First, the question every martini drinker wants to know: Shaken or stirred?
According to Joe McCanta of Grey Goose Vodka, if you're going to drink your martini fast like James Bond, then have it shaken.
"When you shake a martini, all the ice is moving around and that flakes off into little ice kind of flakes, and that makes the drink super-cold immediately afterward," he say.
But as the drink sits, all those little bits of ice dilute faster and your drink gets warm faster. So if you want to savor your drink, he says, "a stirred martini cocktail will stay much colder, much longer."
We took a recent tour of five London bars to see what's new in martinis:
Scarfes Bar at Rosewood
At the elegant Scarfes bar at Rosewood, a hotel in Holborn, director of bars Martin Siska prepares their Petit DJ Ne Martini, a fun take on the-morning-after-the-night-before, complete with a toasted brioche bun on top. "The whole idea behind the drink is we try to use all ingredients which you might have for your breakfast, like cereals, orange, milk, chocolate — so it is sort of a funky style and it is very enjoyable and easy to drink," he says.
Artesian at the Langham
Sebastian showed The Associated Press her twist on the classic martini. She calls it the Fig Reviver, and it's got a woody flavor from whiskey. Garnish is a mini fig leaf and a spray of fig water
Library Bar at the Ned
In the Library Bar at the private member's club The Ned, bar manager Anthony Callegari wheels out a trolley to add drama when serving his Star of Bombay martini.
"It brings a completely different experience to the bar. It is more of a bespoke service, so we come to the table and literally tailor the martini to you," he says. "We ask you what gin you like, what vodka you like, what vermouth you like and what garnish. It could be lime, lemon or an orange, and then it is up to you. It is like making a perfume from scratch."
At the intimate drinking den The Gibson in East London, head bartender Martina Breznanova gets out her blowtorch to show off the Aged Gibson martini, matured in balsamic vinegar barrels.
"We serve it with aged balsamic onions as well," she says. "These are apple cider balsamic onions which are roasted, and there's a dash of truffle oil on the top. And we also serve it with shaved parmesan cheese by the side, just to complement the flavor and wash out the smell of the alcohol afterward."
Finally, we go to the French-themed cocktail lounge Coupette, which boasts a bar made entirely of old French centime coins. Bartender Patrick Kelleher prepares a sparkling martini with champagne liqueur. He uses vodka as a base, then adds some sugar.
"We cook it overnight in a water bath, and then we add it to the drink," he says. "So in that case, you've got the champagne in two different ways into the drink. So you have as much flavor as possible."