The Great Martini Tinker

By Sean Kenniff


Sean Kenniff

A Martini: the definition of liquid elegance and the test by which you can judge most any drink slinger. Dilution, temperature, ratios, infusions, garnishes, vessels—if any of these elements are an iota off, you fail. Bartenders across the country have become emboldened, though, to tinker with the Martini. In Atlanta, that meant focusing on details (the perfect pickled onion and vermouth combination), playing to seasonality (muscadine-infused vermouth), and one young gun bartender saying, fuck it, I’m gonna drop some Mountain Dew in this glass, and you will like it.* 

We’re in the midst of a Martini renaissance, folks, and the possibilities are as glorious as that first and second and third thirst-slaking sip. Here are the most confident, balanced, and rousing Martinis in Atlanta. 

Bartender Michael Clancy of The National | Athens, GA
60/40 Fall Martini: Plymouth Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Manuel Acha Vino Vermouth Blanco, Fall Tincture
“Acha blanco is so herbaceous and has a bit of sweetness to it. Dolin dry is a bit fl oral and bone dry. Together they create a powerhouse vermouth. It’s important to fi ll your stirring vessel all the way to the top with ice, and to add more as it melts while you stir for 30 seconds. I like to express both lemon and orange peel over the drink to create a bright, citrusy aroma. I discard these peels.”

Bartender Josh Fryer of 8Arm | Atlanta
Gibson: Junipero Gin, La Quintinye Extra Dry Vermouth, Vermouth-cured Onion
“Many bars still depend on massproduced pickled onions, which lack complexity. These onions often bring the Martini down, instead of elevating it. I decided to make my own cured onions. Pre-mixed and pre-chilled cocktails, especially martinis, seem to be all the rage at the moment. I agree a martini should be served as cold as possible, but I personally prefer stirring martinis to order to hold onto the magic and showmanship of drink preparation.”

Bartender Mikey Kilbourne of One Eared Stag | Atlanta
Rin Tin Gin: 229 Gin, Mountain Dew Syrup, Amontillado Sherry, Angostura Bitters
“Mountain Dew is definitely a cheeky ingredient. I enjoy using ingredients that may be undesirable in some people’s eyes, and making them delicious. I was surprised at how well the juniper and Sherry flavors were bolstered by the house Dew syrup. It balanced everything so well! The best way to tell a Martini is ready is by the bouquet. I love the lemon and lavender of La Quintinye Blanc, so I use more to bring those flavors to the forefront.” 

Bartender Kellie Thorn of Empire State South | Atlanta
Sinner Lady: Barr Hill Gin, Muscadine-infused Vermouth, Creme de Cacao, Nonino
“Barr Hill is a richer gin, around grain distillate that has been sweetened with honey. It acts almost as a cradle and intertwines with the bitter, rich, herbaceous La Quintinye that we infuse with foxy, tannic, musty muscadines. I order Martinis at house spec wherever I am. If it is diluted properly, cold, and made from high-quality gin and vermouth, then it will be delightful. That being said, I had a really incredible Salvatore Calabrese-style Martini at Dukes in London and, as we all know, there is no dilution there. I may have to eat some of my words, but I would rather drink them in Martini form. It really is one of the most delicious drinks in existence.” 

Can you tell we love Martinis? Here are some of our favorites from across the country, plus London for good measure.

Gin Blossom: J. Rieger Gin, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, Reisenauer Apricot Au De Vie, Suze, Cured Japanese Dwarf Peach
Kristina Magro of Prairie School | Chicago

Walter Gibson Martini: Absolut Elyx Vodka, Edinburgh Seaside Gin, Moulin Touchais, Green Apple Eau de Vie, St. George Apple Brandy, Dolin Dry Vermouth, and Dolin Blanc Vermouth
Pietro Collina of NoMad | New York

Bone-dry Martini: Absolut Elyx Vodka, Bone Tincture, Sea Salt, Lemon Distillate
Ryan Chetiyawardana of Super Lyan | London

Land Race: Purple Corn-infused Gin, Huitlacoche-infused Vermouth, Reagan’s Orange Bitters, Bittermens Scarborough Bitters, and Maraschino
Myles Worrell of The Esquire Tavern | San Antonio

The Lola: Ketel One Vodka, Vergano Chinato ApĂ©ritif Moscato Luli, and Clear Creek Nebbiolo Grappa 
Erin Jones of Coquine | Portland

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