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