Sophisticated and stylish, the martini has definitely settled in as the comeback drink of the century--partly driven by the thirst for the sophistication that the martini has established through the years.
The debates are many when it comes to when the martini rage began, but a quick glance back to the late 19th century will find some tracing the origins to Martini di Arma di Taggia, bartender at New York's Knickerbocker Hotel, for concocting the first "dry" martini.
And at that time, this quintessential cocktail was simply yet most profoundly the marriage of gin and vermouth--a combination that would hardly be acceptable with the nouveau martini-crowd of today. Way too strong.
Hollywood immortalized this elite cocktail in many films, continuing its sophisticating, including an MGM comedy After Office Hours (1935), starring Clark Gable and Constance Bennett. One scene has Jim Branch (Gable), a newspaper editor, and Sharon Norwood (Bennett), the paper's socialite reporter, sipping a crystal clear martini after hours discussing more than just plotting their next move trying to solve a murder mystery.
However, many believe it was the Thin Man series, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, that made the martini cool.
The immortal dry martini is simply gin, dry vermouth and one green olive or lemon zest. Maybe an onion.
This simple recipe has transformed this comeback cocktail into a limitless array of recipes. Some baulk at this bastardization of the martini cocktail, but today many of the hippest new bars and nightclubs have their focus on the martini--in various types and tastes.
Eight One Eight, Tulsa's Premier Martini Lounge, located at 818 E. 3rd Street, is a little off the beaten path of other popular downtown bars, but it is worth the trip a few blocks east to sample any one, or two, or three of their 35 drinks on their Martini List.
Seemingly the draw for this bar, the martinis listed are--from what a co-owner suggested to me--a compilation of drinks they chose from doing a little "martini research." Most martinis on this list are priced at $7 or $8.
A short list of the 35 includes: Traditional or Dirty Dirty, Bond, Cosmopolitan, Manhattan, Cherry Manhattan, Apple Manhattan, Kristen's Buttery Nipple (who's Kristen?), Coconut Dream, Candy Apple, Godiva Star, Mexicano, Mojito Tini, White Chocolate Raspberry, French Vanilla Cappuccino, Café con Leche, Green Widow, Pink Panther, and Grapesoda.
Thursday is Ladies Night, when drink prices are reduced for the gals, so what better evening for my friend and I to sample what Eight One Eight has to offer. We arrived at 9:30, obviously too early. We seemed to open up the place, sitting at the bar, which is taller than normal and is accompanied by bar stools, also taller than normal.
This is a pleasant enough atmosphere--the bar has under lighting which adds a little brightness to this otherwise dark lean and narrow room. A television is the center of attention behind the bar among the many bottles of liquor. Chairs and a lounging couch are also available for groups.
Martinis to the contrary, we began with Perfect Margaritas ($8), which was Sauza Silver Tequila, Gran Marnier, Cointreau and Lime Juice. These went down quickly and smoothly.
We next moved out to the outdoor Patio, a little larger and rectangular sitting area with small tables and a couch and chair area. Live music happens most all nights, except the night we were there.
We did enjoy this outdoor area, watching all sorts of the human population come and go with their friends, gulping beers or sipping martinis. This area is enclosed with brick walls on three sides and a wrought iron fence on the street side. Above, bright stars were visible beyond the stringed white lights this evening.
It was around 10:30 by now, and our next sampling was a Negroni (Absolut Mandarin, Campari Bitters and Sweet Vermouth, $8) for me, and the Mochatini (Absolut Vanilla, Starbuck's Coffee Liqueur, Butterscotch Schnapps and Cream, $8) for my friend. Again, excellent choices for flavor and sipping.
Finally, around 11:30, one more round for the road. For me, the Lemon Drop (Absolut Citron, Sugar, Sweet and Sour and Triple Sec, $7), and for my friend, the Almost Joy (Bacardi Coco, Frangelico, Godiva Chocolate Liqueur and Bailey's, $8). Both were great ways to send us off.
A full dinner prior to our martini tasting is definitely a prerequisite. We enjoyed our time, feeling a bit out of place initially, but very at home as the evening wore on. Our parting words were, "this is a fun place--we need to come back."
No doubt we will.
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