Stirring places to quaff martinis

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 August, 2006, 12:00am

FINDS, Morton's the Steakhouse, Martini Bar, Union Bar & Grille, Lotus

Martinis are sort of the drink of choice these days. Sort of because most people who think they are drinking a martini are actually drinking something else.

If it tastes like lychee or chocolate it may still qualify as a nice drink, but it is not a martini.

Saying 'dry martini' might help clear things up, but you still might be asked 'With gin or vodka?'

I always want to snap whenever the bartender asks me this question. If bartenders had bothered to look into the history of the martini they would have found that there were different degrees of dryness - but it had always been gin, whether one was to believe that the drink originated from the old cocktail Martinez, or William Boothby (The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them, 1907) or former New York Times food critic William Grimes (Straight Up or On the Rocks: the Story of the American Cocktail).

I think vodka is a great drink, and vodka martini is allowed, but if I wanted a vodka martini I would ask for it.

The concept of the martini is so prevalent that even a dingy Mongkok pub will have it on the menu. But whether the bartender can actually make it is an entirely different matter.

If martinis are on the menu I will always order one. This initiative has produced some gruesome results, ranging from a warm brown drink to a clear sweet drink in a rock glass with ice.

A whole lemon peel was served to me once when I asked for a lemon twist.

Luckily, there are quite a few places where one can order a martini at ease. FINDS (2/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, 2522 9318) is my favourite by far. The bartenders will make it to the customer's specifications - how dry, what garnish and which specific gin, and the staff never get it wrong.

It costs HK$80 and during happy hour (Monday-Friday 6pm-8pm) you get two for one.

An added bonus of drinking martinis there is the free, delicious, cheese bread sticks.

Morton's the Steakhouse (4/F, Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers, 20 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2732 2343) offers Mortini nights 5-7pm, Monday-Friday.

Besides serving the drink nicely chilled and strong - and in whatever way you like it - there are mini fillet mignon sandwiches as snacks - probably the most decadent bar snack I've seen.

At HK$55 a martini, it is fantastic value.

Martini Bar (G/F, The Royal Garden Hotel, 69 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2733 2995) also does justice to its namesake drink (HK$120 each) and has 70 alternative recipes. But the measures are small.

I am not a martini purist, but a dirty martini is probably as far off course as I am willing to go (except in extreme circumstances). I find bartenders often add too much olive brine.

One place that gets it right (at HK$68 each) is Union Bar & Grille (Shop 1009, Level 1, IFC Mall Phase 2, 8 Finance Street, Central, 2295 1808).

The bar also serves a dirty martini but uses olives stuffed with blue cheese - and some of the cheese floats to the top.

Although it seems odd at first, the drink is very enjoyable.

Australian Thai bar and restaurant Lotus (37-43 Pottinger Street, Central, 2543 6290) has the best fruity martinis (HK$80 each). The dry martini there is reasonable.

Lastly, stirred is better than shaken. Don't believe James Bond on this, try it for yourself.