The always stylish martini

Vintage drinks remain a happy-hour favorite
Wednesday, February 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:28 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cocktail hour has arrived. The martini re-emerged from the smoky jazz clubs of the 1920s a few years ago and has since made a name for itself as the new “in” drink. Bars and restaurants now offer staggering menus that go beyond the basic cocktail.

Columbia bartenders say martinis are the most popular cocktails around, with the Cosmopolitan heading the list. For the non-martini drinkers, classics like rum and Coke, as well as newer drinks like Red Bull and vodka, are also popular.

Orders, bartenders say, depend largely on the gender of the drinkers.

While the Cosmopolitan is extremely popular, it is typically the drink of choice for women. The same goes for other fruity and sweet martinis.

Men usually order a traditional gin or vodka martini, straight up or dirty (with olive juice), bartenders say. Other times men steer completely clear of the martini. At Dali’s, they request beer and mixed drinks like Jack Daniels and Coke, says employee Hans Zarins.

Women regularly order Cosmopolitans at Quinton’s Bar and Deli, 124 S.Ninth St. Cosmopolitans are made with any one of Quinton’s citrus vodkas, triple sec, lime juice and cranberry juice.

On Mondays , Quinton’s offers Martini Madness from 5 to 10 p.m. At this time, as well as during Friday Happy Hour from 5 to 7 p.m., the 16 martinis featured on the menu are $2.75, down from the usual $3.75. The high-end or “call” vodka is $6 to $8, says Gordon Carr, a bartender and manager Quinton’s.

Another top seller is the Strawberry Starburst, made with vodka, Malibu coconut rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, grenadine, and topped with whipped cream, Carr says.

The Disco Martini is another customer favorite. It has raspberry vodka, pink lemonade, Blue Curacao and orange juice.

Carr says increased demand for martinis may be attributed to movies such as “Swingers” and the HBO TV series “Sex and the City”. The four sexy singles on “Sex and the City” have an active nightlife, which always includes the latest cocktails.

Other mixed drinks are popular at Quinton’sas well. It is difficult to pinpoint the most frequently ordered mixed drink, since orders tend to depend largely on the specials for the night, Carr says. In recent years, however, Red Bull and vodka as well as flavored vodkas and rums such as Bacardi have become more popular.

Meanwhile, at Chris McD’s, 1400 Forum Boulevard Suite 6, the bartenders are busy pouring a variety of drinks, including martinis.

The increase in the past few years in martini orders is because they are different and fun, says manager Joe Reeder, who has worked at the restaurant for three years.

Chris McD’s features a new martini each week, usually created by Reeder. Recently, it was the pineapple martini, which is made by infusing the vodka with fresh pineapple chunks so just enough of the sweet flavor can be detected. Before the pineapple martini, it was wild berry. Each martini costs $6 to $7.50, with the featured martinis being $6.95.

The French martini has also been popular at Chris McD’s. These are made with vodka, Chambord (a raspberry-flavored liqueur) and pineapple juice.

While martinis and mixed drinks have always drawn a crowd, Reeder says wine is most popular with their diners.

Sangria is the drink of choice at Dali’s, a Spanish restaurant at 10 Southampton Dr.

A drink with Spanish roots, it combines red wine, brandy, triple sec, orange juice, lemonade and strawberry juice and is served on ice. Champagne Sangria is also available.

Dali’s is holding its own with martini sales, too. It opened a martini bar in early January and it’s been doing well, Zarins says.

Zarins says it has a “nice lounge atmosphere” that plays Sinatra and Santana for a Spanish flavor. Later at night, they play more techno-type music for the younger crowd. The bar closes at 1:30 every night but Sunday.

There are about 30 martinis offered, but the most popular is the Cosmopolitan. The citrusy Vegas Lemon Drop is also popular, Zarins says.

Kenny McClelland, who has visited Dali’s a few times, usually sticks with bourbon and water, but says he “likes a good martini — gin martini,” made with Beefeater’s gin. He says this particular drink is great from Dali’s.

Downtown at Teller’s Gallery and Bar, Ninth and Broadway, martinis once again take the prize as being the most popular mixed drink, with Cosmos as No. 1, says bartender Ben Browning.

There are about 20 different kinds of martinis, costing $6 each, or $5 during happy hour. Other popular martinis include the Ginzing (Tanqueray, orange juice, grenadine, lemon juice, lime juice, powdered sugar) and the Snap Frost (Ciroc vodka, white grape juice, frozen grapes).

Browning said that when men order martinis, it is usually the younger men who request the newer vodka martini while the older crowd likes the traditional gin martini.

“In classier places the martinis are coming back in a big way...even in big’s trendy, it’s classy,” Browning says. He prefers a premium vodka, like Grey Goose, mixed with pineapple juice.

The martini reigns as the most popular cocktail in Columbia. As this classic drink grows in popularity, enough trendy or traditional variations can be found to satisfy anyone.

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