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Vodka shaken vs. a Vodka Martini


Ufamizm
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I am the bar manager at a small upscale restaurant in the suburbs of Atlanta. I took over the bar here about a year ago and have slowly been working towards becoming a great cocktail destination. When I started, the cocktail list was appletini this and cosmo that. It took a while to get our guests comfortable with the idea of better cocktails, but now most people embrace our mix of the classics and our own originals. Fortunately we do have the kind of staff that is willing to get behind our program, learn about the drinks and encourage people to order off our drink menu.

The biggest problem that I have encountered is the vodka martini.

99.9% of our clientele believe that a martini is vodka, no vermouth, shaken to death (and are terrified of gin). Now the gin drinkers are much easier to convince to let me make them a real martini. Now if you really want vodka shaken, order that and fine, I’ll make it for you. But my question is, how do I get everyone on the same page, that if you order a vodka martini, you’ll be getting one.

I’d like to hear from other bartenders and bar managers (and anyone else that would like to add a comment or two) what experience you have in dealing with the uneducated when it comes to the martini (especially a vodka martini). Is the best approach getting the staff to ask people if they want a shaken vodka up or a vodka martini?

Thanks

Kevin

PS Lets save the vodka vs. gin conversation for another time. My mission in life is already to covert vodka drinkers to gin :biggrin:

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My suggestion as a consumer is give them what they ordered. If they order a vodka martini, then make one for them the way you make martini's. If they balk, or ask why you're doing what you're doing, tell them this is the classic way to make a vodka martini and the way your establishment trains people to do it. Tell them to try it and if they don't like it, you'll make them a new one to their specs.

Give the consumer a no-risk way to try it the right way and you'll have lots of happy customers.

And if you really want to do your consumers a favor, slip in that the original martini is gin and that you'd be happy to make one for their next drink with the same deal - if they hate it, you'll make them something different.

Basically, you have to be willing to chuck a few drinks. But for that, you'll have great word of mouth advertising, loyal + happy + educated customers.

Edited by MattJohnson (log)
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I kind of gave up on this a while back, the Martini in all it's forms ceased decades ago to become a drink and is instead for most people a religion, and people don't take kindly to being confronted about their religion. So instead of being confrontational about the drink, I simply make them to a more or less standard model and let them confront me if they are paying attention while I make it. More or less I add a dash of vermouth, probably about 1/4 oz or so, and always stir the drink. If you do that it gets people to engage you about it, and the opportunity to tell them that you'll gladly shake the drink if they desire, but that stirring produces colder drinks, etc etc. If you're feeling frisky, try a dash of orange bitters. Any time the customer engages the bar staff about their drink it's easier to educate them, rather than the other way around where they may not be responsive to whatever the bartender has to say. With any luck, folks will start coming back to your place because you have "the best vodka martinis" and it may turn in to other things. At the very least, you can have the pride in knowing that you've made a "proper" vodka martini for the folks (assuming for the sake of argument that such a thing exists).

Not everyone will take to this stuff, and they will berate you until you have made the drink "their way" which may include anything up to a half a jar of olive brine or whatever, in the end people have to be fundamentally willing to try new things and not everyone is, especially in regards to religion.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I think a lot of the question depends on what kind of place you're working in.

Regardless, if someone asks you for "a Martini" without any further elaboration, and if you suspect that your clientele is generally going to want something other than gin stirred with a healthy proportion of vermouth, the next question is "how do you want it?"

--

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Regardless, if someone asks you for "a Martini" without any further elaboration, and if you suspect that your clientele is generally going to want something other than gin stirred with a healthy proportion of vermouth, the next question is "how do you want it?"

Quite right. The first question after that is, "When you say "martini" do you mean a mixed drink with a proportion of vermouth in it, or do you really mean vodka <insert brand here> up?" Then I explain that by saying martini they are implying a mixed cocktail with a garnish of their choosing, not just cold vodka in a stemmed cocktail glass. You need to engage them to educate them. If it's a service bar order, I also just make them as I normally would and can scarcely remember any being sent back. In fact most folks order another and I hear from the servers it's the best one the customer has had in a while. It's amazing what a properly made cocktail can do to educate the customer for you.

Getting people to try gin is easier with a gateway drink like a Gin-Gin Mule or one of my Front Stoop Lemonades. You can work them up to a martini from there.

Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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the only martini on our bar menu reads:

The Churchill-

Hendricks Gin, a Wistful Glance at Vermouth

when the spring menu rolls out The Churchill will be replaced with:

"Martini"

Wet or Dry, Gin and Vermouth or Gin, respectively

Many have commented on the name of the Churchill and we've used that as an in for conversation/educaton; we figure that the "Martini" will do the same.

Sandy Levine
The Oakland Art Novelty Company

sandy@TheOaklandFerndale.com www.TheOaklandFerndale.com

www.facebook.com/ArtNoveltyCompany twitter: @theoakland

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PS Lets save the vodka vs. gin conversation for another time.  My mission in life is already to covert vodka drinkers to gin  :biggrin:

Welcome to eGullet.

Allow me to second this. Welcome!

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I'll ask a question to the bartenders from the consumer end..

how do I get a tru martini in a bar without seeming to offend the bartender by telling him/her how i like it..

2 cases...

1) las Vegas...Venetian, Aquanox restaurant ...asked for a Martinini, called for Hendrix, knowing the young bartender might only make a 6:1 or 7:1 formulation, I asked, "could you put a bit more vermouth in the martini than you usually do, please?", with a disgruntled look he barked back with "I dont usually put any vermouth in", so I said essentially "then any amount will do, thanks"

2)Blue martini, tampa, fla, asked for a Perfect gin martini, thinking this was a "Martini" place (had never been before, visiting family in fla) I figured (wrongly) that the bartender would know what I meant...when Iturned around to the bar I had a nicely chilled glass of gin in front of me..I called him over and got "wasnt it 'perfect' enough for you"...

I've taken to ordering a 50-50, just so i know they will get it right...but i dont order it by name...but by description..

I am lucky i can get it stirred when i ask...

so, how do i not offend your trade by asking for what I want, without seeming like a "know-it-all"

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Rule #!: Specify your formula ("Gimme a 2 to 1 Martini with Beefeater, stirred, up with a twist. Put in a dash of orange bitters, if you've got 'em.")

Rule #2: Don't get a Martini in a place where they aren't likely to listen to you when you give your formula.

--

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Why are you worried about offending the bartender? His/her job is to make the drink you ask for, so the more specific you are the better. If you the bartender grumbles about not using vermouth at all, then you should tell them exactly how much you want, because they're clearly not going to get it right by chance. Only a really lousy bartender would be offended by you helping them out with extra information (and I say that as a full time bartender myself).

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I should point out that some perfectly good bartenders (for the job they're in) have learned through experience that their customers don't want vermouth. At all.

I remember reading an interview with some bartender or other who mentioned that several Martinis would be returned each night because they were "not dry enough" -- despite the fact that he had stopped putting any vermouth in them at all.

--

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I should point out that some perfectly good bartenders (for the job they're in) have learned through experience that their customers don't want vermouth.  At all.

I remember reading an interview with some bartender or other who mentioned that several Martinis would be returned each night because they were "not dry enough" -- despite the fact that he had stopped putting any vermouth in them at all.

I think a large number of people feel this way only because its what they've always done. Thats why I'll make people what they want I just want to get people to branch out of their comfort zone a bit.

Thanks for the feedback and welcoming. Finding this place was a true moment of zen!

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Quite right.  The first question after that is, "When you say "martini" do you mean a mixed drink with a proportion of vermouth in it, or do you really mean vodka <insert brand here> up?"  Then I explain that by saying martini they are implying a mixed cocktail with a garnish of their choosing, not just cold vodka in a stemmed cocktail glass.  You need to engage them to educate them.  If it's a service bar order, I also just make them as I normally would and can scarcely remember any being sent back.  In fact most folks order another and I hear from the servers it's the best one the customer has had in a while.  It's amazing what a properly made cocktail can do to educate the customer for you.

Getting people to try gin is easier with a gateway drink like a Gin-Gin Mule or one of my Front Stoop Lemonades.  You can work them up to a martini from there.

This is pretty much what I do behind the bar. I just need to try to get the servers on the same page as me I guess.

And I have my go-to drinks to get people to try gin. My Velvet Underground is the most popular drink we have and most people don't beleive that it has gin in it.

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Quite right.  The first question after that is, "When you say "martini" do you mean a mixed drink with a proportion of vermouth in it, or do you really mean vodka <insert brand here> up?"  Then I explain that by saying martini they are implying a mixed cocktail with a garnish of their choosing, not just cold vodka in a stemmed cocktail glass.  You need to engage them to educate them.  If it's a service bar order, I also just make them as I normally would and can scarcely remember any being sent back.  In fact most folks order another and I hear from the servers it's the best one the customer has had in a while.  It's amazing what a properly made cocktail can do to educate the customer for you.

Getting people to try gin is easier with a gateway drink like a Gin-Gin Mule or one of my Front Stoop Lemonades.  You can work them up to a martini from there.

This is pretty much what I do behind the bar. I just need to try to get the servers on the same page as me I guess.

And I have my go-to drinks to get people to try gin. My Velvet Underground is the most popular drink we have and most people don't beleive that it has gin in it.

Great minds think alike... :biggrin:

So what's in your Velvet Underground? I'd love to have a new gateway gin beverage in my repertoire.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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1) las Vegas...Venetian, Aquanox restaurant ...asked for a Martinini, called for Hendrix, knowing the young bartender might only make a 6:1 or 7:1 formulation, I asked, "could you put a bit more vermouth in the martini than you usually do, please?", with a disgruntled look he barked back with "I dont usually put any vermouth in", so I said essentially "then any amount will do, thanks"

This sort of thing really annoys me. Not so much the way the drink is made - I can't say I entirely approve, but it's up to individual bars to cater to the tastes of there core clientelle if they wish to. It's the attitude that wind me up, where are the manners? If I overheard one of my staff acting like that we'd have an 'issue'. What's wrong with something like "I'm sorry sir, I don't usually add any vermouth. How much would you like?" Ok, that may be a little 'English' and stuffy, but I'm sure you get what I mean.

As to offending bar staff by specifying exactly how you'd like your drink, don't worry about it - as long as your not being rude and obnoxious about it then you won't offend anyone. Personally I much prefer a customer to specify exactly how they'd like their drink because then I know I can make it to their taste. If it's not specified he/she may well be sitting there with a drink they think isn't up to scratch which will reflect badly on both me and my bar. Although I am of the opinion that a customer should only have to specify it once, a good bar tender should remember after that.

Cheers,

Matt

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I remember reading an interview with some bartender or other who mentioned that several Martinis would be returned each night because they were "not dry enough" -- despite the fact that he had stopped putting any vermouth in them at all.

I think that's the problem right there. Straight gin is going to taste sweeter than gin with a little vermouth in it. The vermouth is going to make the martini taste drier. I disagree with the conventional wisdom that less vermouth=drier. That may be what it's called, but not what it is. I just think it's a sad state of affairs that in many places, to get gin in your martini, you have specify "gin martini" like that's the variation, otherwise you get vodka. Might as well just say, "I'd like gin & vermouth, stirred, twist, served up--call it whatever you want." Sometimes, to keep things really simple, I'll just order gin & bitters--no point in even explaining what Pink Gin is (because you know you'll have to).

Not to derail too much, but I recently had to explain to a young bartendress what a Sidecar was. Then she proceeded to serve it on the rocks. I nearly wept.

Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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Quite right.  The first question after that is, "When you say "martini" do you mean a mixed drink with a proportion of vermouth in it, or do you really mean vodka <insert brand here> up?"  Then I explain that by saying martini they are implying a mixed cocktail with a garnish of their choosing, not just cold vodka in a stemmed cocktail glass.  You need to engage them to educate them.  If it's a service bar order, I also just make them as I normally would and can scarcely remember any being sent back.  In fact most folks order another and I hear from the servers it's the best one the customer has had in a while.  It's amazing what a properly made cocktail can do to educate the customer for you.

Getting people to try gin is easier with a gateway drink like a Gin-Gin Mule or one of my Front Stoop Lemonades.  You can work them up to a martini from there.

This is pretty much what I do behind the bar. I just need to try to get the servers on the same page as me I guess.

And I have my go-to drinks to get people to try gin. My Velvet Underground is the most popular drink we have and most people don't beleive that it has gin in it.

Great minds think alike... :biggrin:

So what's in your Velvet Underground? I'd love to have a new gateway gin beverage in my repertoire.

I created the Velvet Underground for summertime, but it is so popular that it has just stuck around. Not the most exiting thing I've done, but it is rather refreshing!

1 1/2 oz Leopold's Gin

About 1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 a lemon cut for muddling

1 oz lavender syrup

Splash soda

Muddle blueberries, lemon and lavender syrup

Add gin, ice and shake

Strain through a mesh strainer into highball filled with ice

top with small splash of soda

Garnish with blueberries and long spiral lemon twist

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Thanks Ufamizm! That sounds tasty! I might not get to try it until it warms up and I can find some decent blueberries with flavor (I hate winter fruit sometimes), but I'll definitely give it a whirl. I always have lavender syrup at my bar for Provencal Martinis, one of my favorites of my own creations.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I am the bar manager at a small upscale restaurant in the suburbs of Atlanta.  I took over the bar here about a year ago and have slowly been working towards becoming a great cocktail destination.  When I started, the cocktail list was appletini this and cosmo that.  It took a while to get our guests comfortable with the idea of better cocktails, but now most people embrace our mix of the classics and our own originals.  Fortunately we do have the kind of staff that is willing to get behind our program, learn about the drinks and encourage people to order off our drink menu. 

The biggest problem that I have encountered is the vodka martini.

99.9% of our clientele believe that a martini is vodka, no vermouth, shaken to death (and are terrified of gin).  Now the gin drinkers are much easier to convince to let me make them a real martini.  Now if you really want vodka shaken, order that and fine, I’ll make it for you.  But my question is, how do I get everyone on the same page, that if you order a vodka martini, you’ll be getting one.

I’d like to hear from other bartenders and bar managers (and anyone else that would like to add a comment or two) what experience you have in dealing with the uneducated when it comes to the martini (especially a vodka martini).  Is the best approach getting the staff to ask people if they want a shaken vodka up or a vodka martini? 

Thanks

Kevin

PS Lets save the vodka vs. gin conversation for another time.  My mission in life is already to covert vodka drinkers to gin  :biggrin:

Ask. Engage they customer/client. I think this is cultural and about mindset. Give the customer/client what they want -- not what you want, or something else because of the way they ordered it, or based upon the fact that you feel they are uneducated.

I have always felt that, barring exceptions, customers/clients are there to please not to have disdain for.

Good luck on the "conversion"

Eric

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If you're just muddling them and fine straining anyway, couldn't you use frozen blueberries?

I would, but don't those invariably have sugar added?? It always seems like the blueberry "juice" is more like blueberry "syrup", which would undoubtedly throw off the balance of the recipe.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I would, but don't those invariably have sugar added??  It always seems like the blueberry "juice" is more like blueberry "syrup", which would undoubtedly throw off the balance of the recipe.

Not necessarily. I have some frozen wild blueberries from Costco and they don't have any sugar in them at all. They're from Rader Farms if you feel like searching for some in your area.

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