Food & Wine recently declared the martini as “the” drink of the year for 2022. Lovers of the olive-or-twist cocktail would argue that it’s a drink staple for good reason.
The recent popularity of the espresso martini has opened the door to drinkers exploring the classic version.
There is no shortage of watering holes in Pittsburgh, but not every bartender can mix a well-made martini. Here are a few places in the city that even James Bond would approve of.
Olive or Twist is the Cultural District cocktail lounge that’s been serving up martinis since 2001. As the moniker suggests, martinis are the stars of the menu. With two floors, there’s always a spot to order a Gimlet or a Gibson and grab a drink before walking to the theater. If you aren’t heading to a show, there’s often a Pittsburgh musician performing here. Other lounges, speakeasies and bars may come and go, but Olive or Twist is a time-honored martini destination. Address: 140 6th St., Downtown.
Bar Marco in the Strip District has been making award-winning food and drink since opening its doors a decade ago. Over the years, this Penn Avenue establishment has been at the forefront of the evolution of the food and beverage scene here in the Burgh. While Bar Marco may be a change-maker when it comes to its cocktail program, one thing is certain — you’ll always find a flawless classic martini. Address: 2216 Penn Ave., Strip District.
The Summit serves libations and hand-crafted cocktails adjacent to the iconic city views of Mt. Washington. While the espresso martini is not to be missed, classic gin or vodka martinis are just as delightful. Address: 200 Shiloh St., Mt. Washington.
Muddy Waters Oyster Bar is an East Liberty seafood restaurant with dishes that pair perfectly with a gin or vodka drink. There’s a drink on the menu that has vermouth infused with oyster shells, a briny mariner’s take on a dirty martini. Seating is first-come, first-served, so plan accordingly. Not familiar with a raw bar? Order the chef’s choice selection, which is a great introduction to a dozen oysters. Muddy Waters participates in the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a nonprofit that works to restore the native Chesapeake Bay oyster population. Address: 130 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty.
The Warren Bar & Burrow is a Downtown bar that never fails to serve a well-crafted cocktail. Since 2018, this local watering hole has been pouring consistently tasty cocktails from shaker to glass. While the bartenders have a reputation for taking flavor profiles and expanding drinkers’ palates, a classic martini is always a wise order. Address: 245 7th St., Downtown.
Fl 2 at the Fairmont Pittsburgh is the perfect spot for a lux liquor experience. This is a hotel bar designed for martini drinking with sleek lines, low lighting and cozy banquette seating for intimate conversation. Order a dirty martini before dinner, or a dry vodka martini with a twist alongside brunch. Address: 510 Market St., Downtown.
Pick your poison: Beginner’s guide to ordering a perfect martini
A few quick lessons for those new to ordering so you can get the best martini for you, each and every time. While the drink may look simplistic, ordering can feel complex. But don’t let the jargon intimidate you!
- There are two liquors for any martini order, either the traditional gin (the original martini is gin-based) or you can ask for a vodka martini. If you have a preferred brand, be sure to mention it to the bartender.
- Now that you have your liquor selected, next is a style elaboration, requesting it to be either dry, wet or dirty. What’s the difference? Dry means less vermouth, wet is a higher percentage of vermouth and dirty is a martini made with olive juice to give it a briny flavor.
- The star accoutrement is the garnish. An olive for a dirty martini, a lemon twist, a lime or a small cocktail onion are the tried and true additions for the classics. If you want to look like a pro, try a variation of a martini called a Gibson with pickled pearl onions or opt for a gimlet with lime. Or, have a martini “clean” with no garnish at all.
- “Shaken or stirred” has become synonymous with the martini thanks to 007. So naturally, these are the terms that go with how the drink is being served. Whether on “the rocks” (on ice), “neat” (no vermouth), or the classic, just “up” (chilled with ice but served without). The preferred presentation is up to you.