Make mine a Martini

It’s not so much any time, any place, anywhere… anymore. Now it has to be the right lounge bar in the right cocktail dress in the right city, hiccups Janet Fitch

Whatever your politics, I’m sure you will agree that after surviving six weeks of electioneering we all deserve a drink. A proper drink. Which is where Martini comes in.

The word Martini conjures up different images. For some it’s personified by James Bond in Casino Royale – “shaken not stirred…” and his invention of the Vesper cocktail – or the ad that said “Make mine a Martini”. The name is also redolent of jazz bars and brittle women in black cocktail dresses and tiny hats smoking cigarettes in long, seductive holders.

But one thing’s for sure, Martini has style. And class. It’s a drink to be sipped in smart clothes, from a classically elegant cocktail glass in superb surroundings, to the sounds of Tony Bennett and Burt Bacharach. If you’re still into drinking foreign beers straight from the bottle to the pounding of garage music, then it’s not your scene. And with no spirits licence, wine- bars are out too.

The place to drink a Martini or any cocktail is either in a lounge bar, which should be cool and Post Modern, or in a classical venue that has stood the test of time and is a welcome haven from the outside world.

The trend started last year in Los Angeles, with bars like Three of Clubs, the Sky Bar at the Mondrian, Tiki Thai and Lava Lounge – all chic lounge bars. In New York, the trend was picked up by clubs like 999999s (as in dressed up to the nines) on Sunday nights.

And in London, the place to be now is the Met Bar in the new Metropolitan Hotel in Park Lane. Designed by United Designers, it’s low key, not obviously glamorous and is enhanced by a mural in the style of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The Martini list is extensive – from the classic Martini to several different chocolate and fruit varieties. I recommend the melon Martini.

If your taste buds are still unquenched, try The Library at the Lanesborough – a mock English gentlemen’s club which serves excellent martinis and cocktails. The American Bar at the Savoy is romantic and nostalgic and the bar in the Hyde Park hotel is unexpectedly good. And if you’re in a party mood, Trader Vics in The London Hilton on Park Lane is worth a visit. And The Atlantic Bar & Grill is still glamorous.

Jay Landesman, author and trendsetter, recently had a Martini party in the newish Gabriel restaurant in Soho’s Golden Square. The Saint in Great Monmouth Street is young but smart; I think it’s at its best earlier in the evening. Detroit in Earlham Street has the excellent barman Dick Bradsell mixing drinks. He was formerly at Fred’s, and Dick’s Bar in The Atlantic Bar & Grill is named after him.

Also worth trying are The Avenue, St James’s Street, primarily a restaurant but with a pleasant bar, the Fifth Floor at Harvey Nichols, and Quaglino’s. If you’re in Glasgow, head for the October Café in Princes Square, and in Liverpool try the Adelphi Hotel.

What all these places have in common, which is so appealing to customers, is space – no overcrowding. Low levels of noise with easy listening crooners firmly in the background means you can actually have a conversation; and you can dress up in your newly acquired Prada or Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana (or the next best thing from Dorothy Perkins) with no danger of ruining your clothes.

Smart bars need smart drinks. And you don’t have to drink loads – two Martini cocktails can be quite enough! If we follow New York’s pattern, they will be accompanied by serious cigar smoking. Bars like Pravda and Spy cater for those who like to mix their cocktails with cigars. And women are in on the new craze too. Recently the magazine Cigar Aficionado sported Demi Moore on the cover with a large Havana between her lips.

Top-class air conditioning is essential too, I should think.

Latest articles