Ice-cold, strong as hell and gloriously retro, the martini ranks as one of the greatest cocktails ever poured. It’s a classic that rarely disappoints—providing it’s done right, of course. One of the best martinis available is served at Bemelmans Bar, the discreet and decadent watering hole inside the swanky Carlyle Hotel on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
The martini-time backdrop at Bemelmans’ is appropriately elegant, with red-jacketed bartenders, 24-karat gold leaf ceilings, leather banquettes, murals of cavorting animals painted by former Carlyle resident Ludwig Bemelmans and either a happy hour piano man tickling a Steinway Grand or a hot jazz trio providing the soundtrack. It's the kind of place where drinking a martini just feels right.
No less a barroom authority than Anthony Bourdain once remarked of Bemelmans’ reclusive charms: "If you were planning on having an extramarital affair, or a clandestine meeting like with a potential new employer, or you were engaged in insider trading, or some sort of conspiracy of questionable legality or morality, it's the perfect place to meet because you could be absolutely certain, or near absolutely certain, that you will not be bumping into anyone you know."
Because who wants to be interrupted while enjoying a stiff martini or three? Tim Hourigan, a Bemelman’s bartender for 16 years, pours a famously good $21 version that’s deceptively simple to make. His most important rule? “Its gotta be ice cold. There’s nothing worse than drinking warm gin. And its gotta have a little vermouth in it, otherwise you’re not drinking a martini.”
You heard the man. Now watch and learn how to make a classic martini:
What You’ll Need:
Gin (Beefeater, Bombay or Tanqueray preferred)
Chilled Martini Glass
“Rinse” mixing glass with vermouth by swirling around the whole glass and then dumping out. Fill it up with ice. Pour in four ounces of gin (or five, if you’re feeling brave), then stir gently until ice cold. Strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with olives. Start drinking.