Top five martinis in Denver -- good, better, Best!

Categories: The List

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Photo: Hunter Stevens
The bar at Encore
We sipped our way through many martinis in our search for the best, and you know what we learned? Any bar can ice down three ounces of vodka or gin and pour it in an up glass" and CALL it a martini -- and many do -- but there are very few that do the classic version of the cocktail right. A classic martini is a combination of gin, vermouth and maybe a dash of bitters, stirred and served up with a twist (or olive). And you won't find a better martini in town than the classic cocktail poured at Encore Restaurant, winner of the Best Martini in the Best of Denver 2011.

You'll have to wait to try it, though, because Encore is taking a (spring) break this week. But here are four more great martinis we found as we drank our way around Denver, rounding out our list of the top five.

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Photo: Hunter Stevens
The bar at Tooey's
Tooey's Off Colfax
Tooey's might look like the kind of place that slings more malt liquor than Manhattans, but it can still mix the classics just right. There's a certain level of geekery at play here, evidenced by the bar stocking one vermouth: Dolin's, which happens to be textbook perfect for classic martinis.

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Photo: Hunter Stevens
Classy booze at Steuben's
Steuben's
We're partial to Steuben's because it was the first joint in this city to coax us into giving the classic gin martini another chance, after the capable bar staff assured us they were not about to plop down a sorry excuse for a cocktail that would remind us of that one night in college. The result? We've ordered many martinis at the bar since, sometimes doing so to impress new suitors at the Best Blind-Date Restaurant.

Colt & Gray
Ask our pick for Best Bartender, Kevin Burke, to craft you a classic gin martini and he might do it -- or he might raise you one, instead passing over a Marguerite, which he considers to be the purest manifestation of what people mean when they ask for this cocktail. Dolin blanc, Plymouth gin and orange bitters go into that refreshing libation.

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Photo: Hunter Stevens
Martini ingridients on the bar at the Squeaky Bean
Squeaky Bean
Max MacKissock nabbed our Best Chef award this year for the work he's doing at the Squeaky Bean with food, but the beverage program, with Sean Kenyon behind the stick, is formidable, too. Kenyon's playful list includes dolled-up classics and such innovative creations as the delicious Larry Tate, a blend of Old Tom gin, Dolin Blanc vermouth, orange bitters and a twist.

Cheers!

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Location Info

Encore on Colfax - CLOSED

2550 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant


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11 comments
dan5280
dan5280

I don't know if it's the "Best Martini", but my 2 cents is the best place to have a martini is the Cruise Room. You just can't beat the pure ambiance...nothing contrived about a place that old.

Guest
Guest

This is not a sarcastic comment, this is a legitimate call to WWord -

I haven't been there in years, but are you seriously telling me the Cruise Room has either closed or has slipped out of a TOP-5 rating for martinis?

If so, how sad. I used to love a double / dry up martini with a bowl of mussels back in the good ol' days. Now I *really* feel old.

eldaveablo
eldaveablo

No love for Herb's Hideout? Love the martinis there. It's been a while though.

And while not "classic", my personal favorite martini recipe is from Winston Churchill:

- Stir 3-4 ounces of gin in a glass with ice- Strain into a chilled stemmed martini glass- Garnish with olive- Look at a bottle of vermouth

Mantonat
Mantonat

Seems like your definition of a classic martini is just that: your definition. A classic martini generally has more than just a splash of vermouth (a ratio of about 5 to 1 on gin/vermouth, but some classic recipes call for a ratio closer to 3.5 to 1) and is ALWAYS gin. Vodka is a variation. An olive is just as acceptable as a lemon twist.

The question is: did you just ask for a classic martini and see what you ended up with or did you describe what you wanted and then see how close they got? If I were a bartender and someone asked for a classic martini, I would not ask about gin or vodka, nor would I ask about garnish. The default would be gin and an olive unless otherwise requested.

LoHi Steakbar makes a pretty mean martini, and their caviar martini with vodka is exceptional.

joey b
joey b

Avenue Grill being left off this list is a staggering oversight.

Mantonat
Mantonat

To clarify, a 5 to 1 ratio of gin to vermouth is what most modern bartenders would consider "classic," but which is probably the bare minimum for the amount of vermouth. Anything less would definitely fall into the category of dry. I think Sean Kenyon recommended (on this blog) trying a 3 to 1 ratio, assuming that you are using good, fresh vermouth. Vermouth goes stale quickly once the bottle is opened so it's possible that the general avoidance of vermouth is due to bars serving stale or low quality product.

Laura Shunk
Laura Shunk

I'm actually with you on the olive, Mantonat, but I don't think that's the default garnish. A bartender should ask olive or twist. And I ordered a martini when I did the research, specifying gin, dry or perfect and twist, if asked.

Laura Shunk
Laura Shunk

Sorry, Joey B, but I researched Avenue Grill and it didn't pour me a classic martini by the specs outlined above.

Kevin Burke
Kevin Burke

5:1 is decidedly dry, not in the rarified "extra dry" ratios of 15:1 which is essentially a cold glass of ethanol. I would consider 2:1 or 3:1 to be in the classic range as Sean Kenyon recommended, personally I prefer the 50-50, especially as an aperitif. I've found that the rarity of fresh vermouth in bars and restaurants is often mitigated by asking them to find that slumbering bottle of oloroso sherry saved for the blue hairs and splashing that in there. Not traditional, or classic, but quite delicious with a little orange peel.

Laura Shunk
Laura Shunk

Oh, and I agree with you on vermouth, too... I'll occasionally order 50-50 vermouth-gin, and I still consider that within the realm of classic martini. I don't think I specified a "splash" of vermouth -- but I did say a dash of bitters was acceptable.

Mantonat
Mantonat

Sorry - that's what I get for reading. I was sure it said "a splash of vermouth."

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