The Martini is increasingly benefitting from savoury and vegetable-themed serves and changes to its core ingredients. Bartenders are experimenting with recipes that appeal to a consumer base looking for more relaxed, more modern, and more approachable takes on a serve that has previously been viewed by some as both stuffy and old-fashioned.
The increasing costs of living can be viewed as a contributing factor to the upsurge. Not only are bars cutting down on their research and development spend as running costs rise – making twists on classics more cost-effective to formulate than brand new cocktails – but consumers tightening their belts are also often looking for failsafe tried-and-tested options.
“Though the Martini may have been considered boring or even snobby by some consumers, its familiarity is also a strength in a time of cutbacks,” notes Emily Neill, COO Research, IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.
The cocktail’s reinvention has pulled in new, younger adult consumers, who were either previously put off by the serve’s no-holds-barred alcohol-forward profile, or its staid image. Social media has also helped to widen the cocktail’s reach through the use of drinking recipes, and tutorials on how to make the drink, as well as the language surrounding the serve, such as dry versus dirty, or shaken versus stirred.
But when it comes to creativity, bars across major cocktail hubs from New York to London are now creating their own spins on the serve. Sophie’s Steakhouse & Bar in London for example, has no fewer than 11 Martinis on its menu. But one of the biggest trends in Martinis has been the shift towards more savoury styles – some more bold and outlandish than others.
The Lowback bar at Hawksmoor’s Canary Wharf location offers the Pink Gibson, a drink paired with roast beef, and described as something resembling the iconic UK snack Pickled Monster Munch. Combining vodka with Audemus Unami Gin, pickled onions, and pickle juice, the Martini is paired with a salt beef nugget.
Again in London, Tayēr + Elementary has a cheesy Martini on its menu. The One Sip Martini is made with Tayēr Vodka, Martini Ambrato, Una Palma Fino and a blue cheese-stuffed olive.
Meanwhile, Mayfair’s LPM Restaurant & Bar makes a Tomatini, which uses a base of freshly squeezed tomatoes, white balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. In fact, vinegar is becoming a key Martini ingredient, even where the approach to savoury flavors is somewhat softer. At London’s Silverleaf, the Heartleaf Kombu Martini has a savory minerality with a potent ginger bite, and includes the addition of a red wine vinegar.
Savory fruit and vegetable-based serves with trending ingredients are also emerging: Apricity offers an asparagus Martini; Three Sheets makes an Earth Martini, made with beetroot and olive oil; and, keeping with earthy notes, Isabel Mayfair uses avocados in its Martinis, which also use agave syrup, lime juice, and black lava salt. In LA, Thunderbolt makes a Liquid Picnic Martini using a gin base, with rosemary, tomato and black pepper.
MSG is also being used as a key ingredient for adding an umami flavor to a range of cocktails at the moment, with the Martini a key one. Bonnie’s in Brooklyn offers a MSG Martini, via an MSG olive brine, and is said to sharpen and bring out its savory notes.
Garnishes are being used to add a sense of theatre and playfulness to the serve. In New York, Nudibranch, Lobby Lounge at Nine Orchard and Ernesto’s all assemble anchovies, peppers and olives for their garnishes. La Devozione in Chelsea Market serves its Martini with brined cherry tomatoes, while the vermouth is infused with sun-dried tomatoes.
Asian flavours are also finding their way in the Martini: Hollywood’s Gunsmoke Japanese restaurant, for example, uses a dashi-brined olive. Meanhiwle, Wildhawk in San Francisco uses a sesame-washed fino sherry instead of vermouth.
Though there is a clear trend towards clean, all-natural flavours – something that has been key to the Martini’s renewed appeal as consumers look for less processed and sugary food and drink – there is no doubting the fact that sweeter profiles tend to be more approachable. Upmarket interpretations of the serves of the disco-drink era of the 90s are now making an appearance. Sweet Liberty in Miami makes an Appletini with Calvados, apple cider vinegar, and fresh apple juice; its Lychee Martini uses sauvignon blanc, lychee liqueur, and elderflower liqueur; and its Lemon Drop Martini combines lemon juice, lemon curd, bitters and grappa.
Cocktail master Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) has long been interested in the serve. In 2013, when he opened the now legendary White Lyan, the menu included a chili apple Martini that combined vanilla-infused vodka, apple liqueur, lemon juice, and chili bitters. Skip to 2022, and the Appletini is on the menu at his new Washington DC bar, Silver Lyan – this time using vodka, green apple sour mix, jasmine blanc, and lime.
Back to the Classics
Espresso and Pornstar Martinis may have been the most ubiquitous of serves of recent years, but that’s not to say that these classics are being overlooked now. Though many long-established bars have had famous Martini serves in place for decades, it’s notable that new and pioneering bars are adding classic options to their menus. Silver Lyan offers ‘timeless’, ‘elegant’ options with its Silver Service Martini, where guests get to choose from a Beefeater gin-base served wet with orange bitters, Belvedere vodka served dry with Amalfi lemon distillate, Absolut Elyx served dirty with house brine, or Fords gin, served 50:50 with Dolin vermouth. All are served with oyster, olive, house-pickled onion and lemon.
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