Shaking Up The Martini Concept with Midnight Rambler, Ten Bells Tavern and So & So's.
You're sitting at a bar, looking over the cocktail menu, assaulted with names of spices and bitters and alcohols that you don't even have the slightest goddamn clue about. You glance around woefully at your fellow bar friends, who all seem to be functioning perfectly well in this stressful situation. Panic grips your chest as the bartender saunters over to ask you what you'll be imbibing. Then you remember that article on Central Track that told you about the best cocktails in town and how different spots make them. And you realize that you're good. Because All Mixed Up has your back.
If ever there was a sexy cocktail, it's the martini.
Sure, maybe this is in part because Sean Connery, Daniel Craig and every 007 in between has wielded one in his hand while serving the Queen. But, let's just be real, the cocktail itself boasts a simple and sleek elegance of its own.
And, per usual, several individuals make claim to creating the first one. One thing is for certain: The martini is an American-made cocktail. From there, the story diverges some. One begins with a miner who struck pay dirt in California during the Gold Rush: After finding his fortune, this lucky guy walked into a bar and asked for a “special drink” from the bartender, who just lazily threw a drink together with what he had in front of him, mixing fortified wine (read: vermouth) with gin, and, bam, yeah, this was the martini. Another story cites San Francisco as the drink's place of origin. Yet another puts it in New York.
Regardless of its origin, the martini has taken on various forms as it's aged, with bartenders experimenting with the recipe and subbing in other liquors — namely vodka — for the gin. But here's the thing: If a martini doesn't use gin as its base, it isn't really a martini.
That isn't to say it all has to be by the book, though.
That in mind, we encourage you to head out, don a tux and run around town acting like a bonafide Bond, martini in hand. To help you do so, here are three of our favorites.
The Midnight Rambler in the basement of the Joule hotel in Downtown is shaping up to maybe become the cocktail bar of Dallas. Besides its style and panache, the bar has put so much though into each of its cocktails that understanding the ingredients lists used can make your head hurt.
Even with the unique and extravagant ingredients that Chad Solomon and Christ Pope have sourced, though, the bar staff eschews over-the-top, dramatic flares and shakes for simple, tried and true mixology. And, boy, if ever a bar had “mixologists,” Midnight Rambler is it.
The pinnacle of this staff's ability to make even the simplest of cocktails unique arrives in its take on the martini. Called the Silvertone, it's just a gorgeous drink — and one you can order either with vodka (typically, they'll use Hangar One) or gin (here, they turn to Beefeater 24). The gin version in particular is a revelation.
A stirred drink that mixes gin with dry vermouth, a brand of mineral water called Crazy Water No. 4 and crushed ice, the concoction is then strained into into a champagne saucer for serving. Then, a dash of orange bitters is added and, finally, the drink is garnished with two cocktail onions. Completely, it looks like elegant water. But that’s deceiving; this thing can still get you plenty buzzed.
That said, its flavor profile is a little unexpected. Instead of tasting the clean zing of the gin, your mouth is filled with that taste of mineral heavy water — a slight tinge of metal and something a bit earthier. It's wholly unexpected — and it can be quite the polarizing force if you're expecting a typical dry martini.
But we dig it.
Ten Bells Tavern.
Ten Bells is a bar that feels a little out of place in the Bishop Arts District. But that's OK, because it's also one of the best bars in the neighborhood.
No, they may not have “mixologists” here. But they do have people like Patrick Tierney, who just pour you your damn drink — and heavy, too, just the way we like it. Tierney's apple martini follows suit, too. It's a beast all its own.
A typical apple martini, Tierney says, is just “too damn sweet.” So, instead of going all-out on the sugary taste of an apple martini, Tierney mixes Sour Apple Pucker schnapps with the almond flavor notes of amaretto. After that, he adds some pinot grigio and a splash of apple juice. The result is a more deceptively sweet drink. It tastes like a green apple, though. And it's easy to imagine getting way too drunk, way too fast off of one of these suckers.
It's not the martini of yore, no. But it ain't supposed to be, either. Want one of those more-traditional takes? Try your luck down at one of the joints down the road, pal.
Such & Such Martini.
So & So's.
You've got to hand it So & So's in Uptown. This bar staff has legitimate fun with its drinks.
And it's not just the absurd names they employ, either. This staff's all about incorporating unique and obscure ingredients into its recipes. And that mashes well with the overall atmosphere of the place, which practically begs that you have a good time yourself, too.
The martini here falls in line with those guidelines, too, which is to say that it defies expectation. Instead of keeping things simple, bar manager Cody Hand ups the flavor profile beyond the stiff gin and the sweet edge of vermouth. He begins by muddling cucumber, lemon juice, simple syrup and gin. After straining that into a glass, he tops the elixir with a splash of champagne rose and a cumber slice garnish.
Hand says the idea of the cucumber garnish is to fool the imbiber: “When a person picks it up and drinks it, they smell the cucumber as opposed to the champagne,” he says. “It adds a bit of earthiness to it.”
But, really, it's just a bold drink — a much bolder one than the original. The powerful gin is rounded out with the earthy notes of the cucumber and the sourness of the lime juice. And the rose topper helps make the first few sips sweeter and easier to down
In other words: Be careful, folks. This one will get you wasted.