With the arrival of 2006, several destination bars and restaurants are still in search of surprising new ways to keep the party going. While some customers will no doubt opt for a classic martini accessorized with an olive, other adventurous patrons are looking to discover new worlds inhabited by top shelf spirits and unexpected ingredient selections.
Ma’Kai in Santa Monica has reached a new milestone in its evolution, with their crew charting a new course in a more definitively Polynesian direction with the food and cocktail menus. Robert Greene, who has been bringing new spirit to Ma’Kai’s spirits, has set the world of chocolate lovers ablaze with the Java Martini (made from Grey Goose La Vanille, Godiva Cappuccino Liquor, a short espresso shot, a quarter ounce of simple syrup and garnish of three espresso beans) and the Chocolate Orange Martini (with Grey Goose L’Orange, White Cream de Cacao and Godiva Dark Chocolate Liquor). Though fruity potions are most commonly associated with Polynesian restaurants, leave it to Greene to successfully remind you that coffee and chocolate have their origins in the tropics.
Although Grace has been a star attraction on the L.A. dining scene for a number of years, the sophistication of its menu and bar keeps it burning bright in an ever changing galaxy of trendy eateries and “it” dining places. While executive chef Neal Fraser is committed to American cuisine woven together with market-fresh seasonal ingredients, the cocktails follow suit with a garden party of components that reflect his passion for quality, color and natural goodness. Case in point, the Orange Blossom Special (a luxurious blend of Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Vodka, Galliano, white cranberry juice and fresh orange juice).
Bradley Ogden at Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas continues to hedge its bets. Ogden first made a name for himself by putting fresh organic produce and the finest meats and seafood first on the marquis. Today, he and his staff continue to live up to the high standard set in 2004 when The James Beard Foundation bestowed the venue its “Best New Restaurant” honor. While Ogden’s innovative “New American” cuisine offerings continue to make news, the attentive bar staff applies the same attention to quality and details in their specialty martinis. For instance, the Raspberry Lemon Drop, made with care from Stoli Razberi, Chambord, Triple Sec and freshly made sweet and sour.
Down Caesar’s Palace’s “Appian Way,” Nero’s (under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Sean Griffin) is keeping its own fire going with a great new look along with twists on classic martini recipes that are as elegant as the dry-aged prime beef, tender chops, fresh fish and seafood that makes it a destination in its own right. And what better way to wash down a fabulous dinner or a hot night on the town than the Nero’s Cosmo, with Charbay Blood Orange Vodka, Cointreau and fresh-squeezed lime, chilled up?
P6 brings subtle, urbane late ‘70s ambiance and a menu of thoroughly modern comfort food to Westlake Village, bordering Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. While Executive Chef Francisco Chaidez takes pride in the way he uses unusual mixes of ingredients, spices and presentation techniques to reintroduce his adventurous clientele to classic steaks, salmon, scallops and foie gras, the bar manager has a mission all his own: to wow customers into orbiting the bar area with creations like the “006,” an updated classic made with Chopin Vodka, dry vermouth and blue cheese stuffed olives.
Scintillating facts about the entities that rock the martini world (and those who love it).
Chambord: The base of this legendary spirit--black raspberries, vanilla, honey, fragrant herbs and other berry fruits are steeped in cognac and other fine spirits--has remained virtually unchanged in its 300 year-history.
Chopin Vodka: This premium single-ingredient Polish vodka is the only luxury potato vodka in the world, and distilled from 100% organic potatoes.
Domaine Charbay Blood Orange Vodka: The flavor is inspired by a visit to Rome. If you stay there, chances are your morning orange juice will be from Blood Oranges, which have a spicy berry-orange flavor.
Galliano Liqueur: In 1986, Italian distiller Arturo Vaccari brought Galliano, a spicy and golden liqueur to life by weaving an interesting mix of ingredients, such as star anise and vanilla, into the distillation process. The moniker "Galliano" is inspired by Maggiore Galliano, hero of the East African wars at the end of the 19th century.
Godiva Cappucino Liqueur: The newest member of Godiva’s family of liqueurs blends together the rich, roaster fresh taste of cappucino-and-steamed-milk with the distinctive taste of Godiva’s internationally renowned milk chocolate, bringing bartenders a wealth of new “dessert-in-a-glass” possibilities. Its successful older sibling, of course, is Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur, recognized as the definitive foundation for chocolate martinis.
Grey Goose L’Orange Vodka: …is created through a five-step distillation process that begins in copper-pot stills and incorporates mineral water from the Genti Springs, Cognac, France. Water is filtered with Champagne limestone, blends with a selection of rye, corn, barley, and wheat. Distillation is finished with an infusion of orange essences.
Hanger 1 Mandarin Blossom Vodka: To achieve the unique, exhilarating flavor and bouquet of a freshly peeled tangerine, Hangar 1’s distillers include flowers in the infusion to bring forth the delicate tangerine aromas.
Ketel One Vodka: Ketel One’s smooth, mixable body is achieved by producing very limited quantities. During the distillation process, the center of each batch (“heart of the distillate”) makes its way to the final product. The first 100 gallons and the last are separated and discarded.
FaveMartiniGrace: Grace bartender/server Scott Galbreath shakes things up with The Orange Blossom Special
FaveMartiniNero: Nero’s Cosmo, a balanced, not-too-sweet blend of Charrbay Blood Orange Vodka and Cointreau.
FaveMartiniBradleyOgden: Bradley Ogden’s Raspberry Lemon Drop.
FaveMartiniMakai: Robert “Hap” Greene with two shots of chocolately goodness—The Java Martini and Chocolate Orange Martini