We’re in the Golden Age of Martini Garnishes

These New York bars have used creativity to move beyond the standard olive, onion and twist

September 29, 2023 6:24 am
gramercy tavern Giardiniera marketini on a wooden table with gin and vermouth
We'll take a giardiniera sidecar with our next Martini, please.
Francesco Sapienza

We don’t have to tell you that the Martini is having a moment. Almost every place you go, from dive bars to the finest restaurants, has a signature take on their menu — and if they don’t, you better believe the bartender can probably make you a great classic version. I, for one, love a Martini, not only because it’s a perfect cocktail but also because bartenders are getting creative with the ingredients, particularly garnishes. 

While I’ve had the pleasure of trying many Martinis across the country these last few years, some of my favorite alternative garnishes can be found right here in NYC. From a pickled tomatillo to a dried apricot, these Martinis prove we’re in a golden age of garnishes. 

Cherry Blossom: Bar Goto and Bar Goto Niban

Both locations of Kenta Goto’s namesake bar come with his signature twist on the Martini. The Sakura Martini is a mix of sake, gin and maraschino that’s garnished with a perfect pink cherry blossom. Even in the dead of winter, this drink brings some springtime warmth. 

Dill Sprig: The Living Room at Park Hyatt New York

The Living Room at Park Hyatt New York is one of our favorite Midtown bars — not just because it’s utterly beautiful, but because head bartender Steven Gonzalez makes some of the most creative cocktails in NYC. His Vesper is one of the best, made with Svöl Swedish-Style Aquavit, Manzanilla sherry, Finocchietto liquer and cardamom bitters. Because the aquavit he uses is more dill-forward than caraway-dominant, a fresh dill spring garnishes the cocktail for a beautiful herbal finish.

Saffron Martini from eyval on a black and white printed table
Saffron Martini

Sour Grapes: Eyval

At Bushwick’s Eyval, Persian flavors are the star of the show — even behind the stick. There, bartenders work with ingredients like dates, arak and doogh (a cold, savory yogurt beverage), not to mention saffron, which shows up in their take on the Martini. Old Tom gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth and orange bitters join the spice, along with a garnish of skewered ghooreh, or sour grapes, to give the drink a savory finish.

Dried Apricot: The Turk’s Inn

Wisconsin is known for its Brandy Old Fashioneds, which you can try at Bushwick’s The Turk’s Inn, a modern revival of a classic American supper club. But while you’re there, be sure to check out their expertly-made Martinis, including the Salted Apricot. Made with apricot vodka, blanc vermouth, apricot eau de vie, a pinch of salt and a dried apricot garnish, it’s a dry, fruit-forward take on the drink.

Palmetto's Dirty Martini on a wooden table with a sidecar
Palmetto’s Dirty Martini
Liz Clayman

Pickled Fennel: Palmetto

Palmetto is the neighborhood bar everyone wishes for — excellent cocktails, great music and relaxed, no-pretense vibes. Fans of Dirty Martinis should order their version, which is made with your choice of vodka or gin, house brine and yuzu, a combo that gives it a rose-tinted hue. It’s garnished with both an olive and pickled fennel, for good measure.

Anchovies/Basque Peppers: Gilda

Gilda opened earlier this year as an ode to New York’s Gilded Age, and the cocktail program — helmed by Steven Rhea, formerly of Maison Premiere — is one of the most exciting in the city right now. The Gilda Martini is extra special, made with Xoriguer Gin de Mahon, extra dry vermouth and garnished with a dynamic duo of anchovies and Basque peppers.

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Aldama's Gibson
Aldama’s Gibson
Andrea Grujic

Pickled Tomatillo: Aldama

Gibsons are typically garnished with pickled cocktail onions, but Christopher Reyes of Aldama has switched it up for the hotspot’s bar program. His version is made with Plymouth Gin, cilantro-infused Carpano Bianco, pickled radish juice and garnished with a bright green pickled tomatillo, a nod to the restaurant’s Mexico City fare.

Dongji Martini from naro nyc on a black background
Dongji Martini
Evan Sung

Fermented Radish: NARO

At Korean restaurant NARO, the beverage program is inspired by different microseasons reflected in the Jeolgi calendar constellation chart. The Dongji Martini is inspired by the winter solstice, when fermented winter radish, or “dongchimi,” is made. The cocktail is one of the most elegant on this list, made with Solsongju Damsoul Pine Soju, Sulseam Mir Soju, Italian white vermouth, dongchimi brine, winter melon bitters and garnished with a piece of fermented radish.

Saffrantine from la marchande new york on a wooden table
Liz Clayman

Pickled Baby Eggplant: La Marchande

We’ll trust anything that beverage director and sommelier Amy Racine puts in front of us, and that includes her Saffrantine at downtown French brasserie La Marchande. The Martini variation is made with Grey Goose vodka, Cap Corse Blanc and infused with saffron. It’s then garnished with a pickled baby eggplant. 

Giardiniera Mar(ke)tini on a wooden table from gramercy tavern
Giardiniera Mar(ke)tini
Francesco Sapienza

Giardiniera: Gramercy Tavern

Gramercy Tavern has a whole Mar(ke)tini menu, which includes versions of the classic cocktail that change seasonally. Our current favorite is the Giardiniera, which is made with Condesa Gin, Antica Torino Dry Vermouth and served with a swing top sidecar jar of – you guessed it — house-made giardiniera

dirty pickle martini on a wooden table
Dirty Pickle Martini
The Bonnie

Pickles: The Bonnie

Astoria’s beloved cocktail bar The Bonnie serves some of the best drinks in the neighborhood. Fans of Dirty Martinis will love their take on the classic, which swaps out olive brine for pickle juice. The Dirty Pickle Martini is also garnished with McClure’s Pickles, which are some of the finest in the game.

Nam Gin Martini from fish cheeks
Nam Gin Martini
Audrey Melton

Pickled Gooseberry: Fish Cheeks

Fish Cheeks serves some of our favorite Thai food in the city, and the restaurant’s cocktail program is just as thoughtful as the cuisine. Take for example the Nam Gin Martini, a savory mix of Gray Whale Gin, cilantro root, lime and garlic chili brine. The Dirty Martini variation is garnished with a pickled gooseberry for good measure.

elnico Tomato Martini
Tomato Martini

Pickled Golden Tomato: elNico

elNico is a true gem, where you can enjoy some of the best Mexican food in NYC from chef Fer Serrano. The bar program is led by cocktail wizard Leo Robitschek, and the Tomato Martini is one of our favorites. A mix of Grey Goose Vodka, Baldoria Dry Umami Vermouth, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, tomato water and olive oil is garnished with a pickled golden tomato for a savory, satisfying take on the drink.


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