The American love affair with the Martini began, as have many of our cultural obsessions, with the movies. For drinkers of a certain age, it was William Powell and Myrna Loy in “The Thin Man.” Later on it was Sinatra and the Rat Pack or Sean Connery and Roger Moore as James Bond. For a more recent generation of adult drinkers, it’s as likely to have been inspired by the would-be hipsters of “Swingers.” The simple fact is that Martinis look cool and so do the people drinking them.
Pietini and Caketails from Dylan Prime, NYC
The problem that many young adults have run up against is that the drink in that elegant glass is straight gin or vodka, with a hint of vermouth and slight dilution from ice. For palates that have grown up with an array of soft drinks and fruit juices, that flavor profile can be a little too intense. Earlier generations sucked it up and eventually learned to like the taste of a Martini, which was sort of the penance for being allowed to drink from that symbol of sophistication, the Martini glass.
IT’S THE GLASS
Since it’s really all about the glass, modern mixologists have solved the age-old problem in the simplest way possible they put flavors in that wonderful glass. And for modern American palates a drink that tastes good usually means a drink that has some sweetness to it. In other words, the Sweetini.
The Cosmopolitan, which found success by cutting the vodka with triple sec, lime juice and a splash of cranberry is probably the drink most responsible for the new sweetini subculture. These days the flavor palate of sweetinis runs the spectrum of just about every flavor imaginable including apple, chocolate, raspberry, orange and coffee.
Spirits suppliers have jumped into the game wholeheartedly. Gin and vodka brands have featured Martini glasses in their ads for years, but now so do rums, cordials and other types of spirits. To promote Rémy Red, recent ads have featured the Purple Haze Martini, Red Devil Martini and Hot Pink Martini, all made with flavored vodka and the cognac and fruit infusions.
Stewart Slocum, director of beverage marketing, research and development for Carlson Restaurants/Friday’s calls new age Martinis the “frou frou drinks of the new millennium” and notes that as a result the Martini concept has been expanding beyond the original vodka and gin profile to flavors and colors and includes every spirit imaginable. “In casual dining, we’re still seeing Martinis as primarily a drink for the bar or a pre-meal drink.”
APPLE PIE A LA MODE from Dylan Prime, NYC. Armandale Vodka, Berentzen Apple Schnapps and Maple Syrup
Slocum does note that, “We’re seeing men enter the Martini extension trend with drinks like the White Cosmopolitan, which tastes the same but is made with white cranberry juice.”
THE DESSERT BAR
With all this activity, it was probably inevitable that the next step would be the dessert Martini.
At the Southern California Burbank Bar and Grille, the Martini menu lists 38 selections. Of those, only four, all variations on the classic Martini or Manhattan, do not include some kind of sweetening agent in the recipe. The menu is a perfect example of how using various flavored vodkas, liqueurs, fruit juices and mixers can open up a world of colorful and tasty profit opportunities. Selections on the BBG Martini Menu run from the expected Alabama’s Peach Martini (Stoli Peach Vodka, peach liqueur, splash of sweet & sour) or Vegas Lemon Drop (Grey Goose Le Citron Vodka, triple sec, lime juice & sugar) to the exotic Chocolate Covered Strawberry (Stoli Strasberi, Baileys Irish Cream and cr