The Métropolitain

The Not So Perfect Martini in New York City

By Robert K. Stephen on October 19, 2012


Martinis and Kraft Dinner have much in common. One can spend hours comparing techniques, add-ons, personal preferences and anecdotes and reach no conclusions as to the ultimate Martini or bowl of Kraft Dinner. Do you like your Kraft Dinner, milky, cheesy, al dente and with chopped up hot dogs in it? Do you like a gin vs. vodka Martini, dirty Martini, with lime twists or with or without vermouth? Do you like to eat your Kraft Dinner right out of the pot with a soup spoon or in a bowl? Would you like your Martini shaken in front of you or be content to hear it be shaken twenty feet behind you? Do you want it stirred or shaken? All these questions are deep and serious worthy of contemplation by both philosophers andprobably not wine writers who should keep their snouts out of Martini stemware.

nycmartini.jpgNew York City has a buzz about it and I am told there are people who like to chill out over a Martini in quiet little alcoves particularly in snowstorms! A little well prepared juice to take the edge off Manhattan. If Holden Caulfield from “Catcher in the Rye” can act like a big shot and have a Martini in New York City anyone can. So let’s delve into a tiny tad of what New York City has to offer Martini wise. First of all let’s review how we might want to score Martinis which, no doubt, may cause a firestorm! Note that some say the standard New York City Martini weighs in at ten ounces. I think it better be revised to read about six ounces. Holy Mackerel! In Canada you’d be sentenced to 10 years for anything over 5 ounces!

50 points: Does it look, smell and taste like a Martini? In today’s bar and restaurant world Martini glasses just might be used for shrimp cocktails and ice cream Sundays. Do you really want to slurp a Martini that smells like some curry dish has been served in it?  

10 points: Is it sufficiently chilled? Not that any of you have woken up with someone you regretted staying the night with but something less than an ice cold Martini reveals a nasty side to vodka and gin where they become raw industrial ingredients better suited for manufacturing plastic or pesticide than what they can be if treated with respect and coldness. The maintenance of gin and vodka in a freezer is essential. Glasses must be equally chilled either in the freezer or in cold water and ice cubes. An icy mush floating in the glass in minute fashion is acceptable but may indicate too small hollow ice cubes that may disintegrate upon shaking and create ice shards.

10 points: Stemware quality. No one likes a martini in a clumsy, thick and cheap glass. Plastic stemware gets you a big fat zero.

20 points: Yes taste is important so why award it 20 points in a scoring category?  Well if all the other elements are in place taste just falls into place. After all aren’t we dealing with just vodka, gin and vermouth?

10 points: Pomp and Circumstance deserves some recognition. Is the Martini treated with the respect the way it is served? It is a very special concoction and really deserves to be treated as the special little darling it is. It should be gingerly deposited on the table underneath a cocktail napkin with preferably and OldWorld Expression, “Sir, your Martini is ready.” Is the server particularly enthused when it is deposited in front of you?

THE PLAZA HOTEL (The Rose Room on Fifth and Central Park) 93 POINTS

We can lament the recent closing of The Plaza’s Oak Room which was a significant New York institution. The Rose room with its rose coloured lighting harkens back to yesterday’s dark, wood panelled old men’s club atmosphere. I prefer the natural lighting of the downstairs’ Champagne Bar. However their $21 premium martini is prepared and served to excellence. Great little nut and nibble tray. A crisp and sharp Martini.

GABRIELS (11 West 60th) 90 POINTS

Once again a very good Martini with a direct pour in front of you. Great deference and care shown in this neo classical bistro. Oprah is seen in here occasionally as well as Mayor Bloomberg and Henry Kissinger. Crisp, clean and clear. Scott is one of themost affable barkeeps in NYC and knows precisely when to hover in and hover out.

CASSIS BISTRO (225 Columbus Avenue) 82 points

Like some good moules et frites in a simple bistro environment?Cassis far off the beaten touristic path may be for you. A good end product in the glass but not sufficiently chilled, served in thick and clumsy stemware and without ceremony at all. A bit of a shame but a good Martini is more than cold booze. Give it the respect it deserves.

HUDSON PRIVATE PARK (356 West 58th) 74 points

For $18 you can see how bad a Martini and service can be. Forthis inflated self-service price you can walk up to the bar and order a Martini. A cafeteria Martini! How loathsome. Decent stemware, chilled decently but a cut wedge of lemon as opposed to a twist of lemon. No nuts. Worst of all the Martini has lost any alcohol identification and is watery and dilute. A lovely setting wins the Martini a few bonus points as you are in an outside bar surrounded by high-rises. Big New York feel. I feel like Jack Lemmon in Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment”. What a shame the vodka died a watery death. Mr. G agrees and we barely manage to polish off the insipid brew.


Mr. G has his pants charmed right off as I am running a few minutes late and the staff asks him if they can get him a glass of spring water in an earnest and “non-bullshit” type of way. Yes that is the Ritz-Carlton Central Park South! The Martini is shaken in front of us and poured into a well-chilled glass. A nice big bang of alcohol knocks up the taste buds. No dilution. A real Martini served with enthusiasm and pride with a delicious selection of nuts. Love curried peanuts with a Martini. A glass of ice is delivered to Mr. G and I as this is an early afternoon Martini the staff knows how the slow down the explosive effects of their Martinis. How perceptive! I am so impressed with the Martini who cares about the price! Do these guys have a PHD inMartini’s? Of course my Martini is the best in the world. But these guys are tops on the list as far as commercial Martinis go.And there big plans afoot at the Ritz-Carlton Central Park South to serve Martini flights with local Vodkas sourced from all over New York State. What a brilliant idea! Locally sourced vodka is becoming a big thing in the U.S.A. and the Ritz-Carlton is riding ahead of the pack on this one! Vodka from Brooklyn! Love it!