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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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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