Cock­tail Time

Mar­tini Mad­ness

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY GINA BIR CH Gina Birch is a well- known South­west Florida broad­cast jour­nal­ist and fre­quent contributor to TOTI Me­dia. Read more of her mus­ings at the­birch­beat. blogspot. com.

Fla­vored spir­its are king of the bar scene, and vodka mar­ti­nis are queen. Vodka to a bar­tender is like a blank can­vas to a painter; the fla­vors are the paint. The count­less fla­vored vod­kas ( and other spir­its) on the mar­ket to­day may be hard to keep track of, but they pro­vide un­lim­ited pos­si­bil­i­ties for mixol­o­gists.

So many pos­si­bil­i­ties, that at one point Blue Mar­tini’s cock­tail list was some 70 strong. The popular Naples restau­rant and bar boasts one of the big­gest, most cre­ative craft mar­tini lists in South­west Florida.

Blue Mar­tini man­ager Car­los Pacheco says mar­ti­nis are so popular be­cause “they are multi­gen­er­a­tional, mul­ti­cul­tural; ev­ery­one likes a mar­tini, and es­pe­cially here.”

With menu items such as the Dou­ble Dose, made with rasp­berry and peach puree, you might ex­pect many of th­ese drinks to be su­per sweet; how­ever, the fruit is so well bal­anced with the other in­gre­di­ents that the mix, like most at this mar­tini bar, is seam­less.

Also in­trigu­ing about this par­tic­u­lar cock­tail is the use of Pa­trón Sil­ver tequila in­stead of vodka. Us­ing tequila and even whiskey in some of the mar­ti­nis here tends to win the ma­cho crowd, who of­ten stereo­type a col­or­ful mar­tini as “girly.”

Pacheco says, “Men don’t want to miss out on all of the fla­vors and don’t seem to mind hold­ing a mar­tini glass.” Lean­ing in, he qui­etly adds, “The ones who do ask for the drink in a tall glass in­stead”.

The ap­pear­ance of Blue’s sig­na­ture drink is so strik­ing, Pacheco says, “you just want to be hold­ing one.” The Blue Cosmo is made with Van Gogh Blue Wheat vodka, triple sec, Blue Cu­raçao, sour and a splash of orange juice, and comes in a brandy snifter with a glow stick. Van Gogh ac­tu­ally cre­ated this smooth vodka specif­i­cally for Blue Mar­tini.

Still­wa­ter Grille in Fort My­ers is known for hav­ing an im­pres­sive craft beer se­lec­tion, but the mar­tini list is just as hot, with 50 to choose from. The house spe­cialty is the sour ap­ple mar­tini made with Tito’s vodka, ap­ple Pucker, nat­u­ral lemon­ade and limeade, fin­ished off with a splash of le­mon- lime soda. Another ver­sion comes with cit­ron vodka.

Still­wa­ter has a long list of de­li­cious dessert mar­ti­nis and oth­ers with names so clever you don’t care what’s in it, you just want to or­der it out loud.

Mar­ti­nis and sushi make a per­fect pair, and they are oh so trendy at Blu Sushi in Fort My­ers. With more than a dozen mar­ti­nis on the list, Blu cap­i­tal­izes on his­tory and lo­ca­tion with

one of its best­sellers, Aloha Mr. Edi­son, made with Van Gogh pineap­ple vodka and pineap­ple Pucker.

Unique to Blu is the list of sake­ti­nis— mar­ti­nis made with sake. Man­ager Amy Lawrence says, “We can take a mul­ti­tude of fla­vored sakes like lemon­grass and co­conut, and pair with vod­kas, rums and other juices to make some­thing divine.”

Trop­i­cal mar­ti­nis do well across the board at South­west Florida restau­rants. Andy Biddle, gen­eral man­ager of Keylime Bistro on Cap­tiva, ex­plains, “When peo­ple travel, they want to try some­thing new and dif­fer­ent, not the same old gin or caber­net.”

Pacheco agrees, adding, “I of­ten see vis­i­tors’ eyes go wide, look­ing at all of the choices. They want to ex­per­i­ment and try lots of fla­vors while they are here.”

WHEN PEO­PLE TRAVEL, THEY WANT TO TRY SOME­THING NEW AND DIF­FER­ENT, NOT THE SAME OLD GIN OR CABER­NET.”

— ANDY BIDDLE, KEYLIME BISTRO

Keylime Bistro has an en­tire page of fla­vored mar­ti­nis, in­clud­ing blue­berry, pomegranate and a sin­ful white choco­late rasp­berry truf­fle. One of Biddle’s fa­vorites is the pineap­ple cosmo be­cause, he says, “It’s not too sweet and has a great kick.”

The go- to cock­tail at this is­land restau­rant, how­ever, is its name­sake, the Keylime Mar­tini, with a gra­ham- cracker rim. The bar uses mostly Van Gogh fla­vored vod­kas; Biddle be­lieves the fla­vors are more con­cen­trated. ½

Sweet Melissa’s Cafe on Sani­bel em­braces not only trop­i­cal fla­vors, but also lo­cal busi­nesses. The TOTI Mar­tini, named after this pub­li­ca­tion, is one of the most popular on the menu. The re­fresh­ing mix of Ketel One Citroen, Blue Cu­raçao and pineap­ple juice cre­ates a beau­ti­ful aqua­ma­rine color with a sweet fruity fin­ish.

The wa­ter­melon cosmo is another cool hit, but even more so are the deca­dent dessert drinks such as the tiramisu, espresso and choco­late mar­ti­nis.

Even with all the fla­vors, how­ever, owner Melissa Tal­mage con­firms the clas­sic is still alive and well— a dirty mar­tini with blue cheese– stuffed olives. It just never seems to go out of fash­ion.

Many of th­ese great- tast­ing craft mar­ti­nis come at a cost— not just to your wal­let but also your waist­line. If you want to re- cre­ate some­thing fes­tive at home, the Skin­ny­girl line helps shave a few calo­ries with recipes that linger on the lips, not the hips. The new­est fla­vor, Meyer le­mon, is crisp and re­fresh­ingly per­fect for a Florida mar­tini, with fewer than 75 calo­ries per 1.5- ounce serv­ing.

Have fun sam­pling th­ese mag­nif­i­cent mar­ti­nis or cre­at­ing your own over the hol­i­days. Cheers!

Pomegranate Mar­tini at Blue Mar­tini

Coco Pink Chanel Mar­tini at Blu Sushi

Keylime Mar­tini at Keylime Bistro

TOTI Mar­tini at Sweet Melissa’s Cafe

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