Ask any martini drinker how they take the cocktail and they’ll rattle off their version without hesitation. It could be vodka, slightly dirty with an olive or gin, dry, straight up with a twist or anything in between. The martini’s proportions and base spirit (vodka or gin) are regularly debated. Should it contain vermouth, and, if so, how much? Are bitters necessary? How dirty is too dirty? One could even argue the martini is simply a state of mind.
We spoke with a handful of Atlanta bartenders and avid martini sippers to get their thoughts on which bars serve the best martinis in town. After drinking through their lengthy list, we believe these seven establishments are stirring up Atlanta’s finest.
After 90 years in business, this Atlanta icon has their martinis down. Whether you take the classic with vodka or gin, dirty or straight up with a twist, the martinis at the Colonnade are no-nonsense. Expect to be served a large, ice cold glass of booze filled to the brim. It may or may not include vermouth. One is all that’s needed. Thankfully, there’s fried chicken for dinner.
1879 Cheshire Bridge Road NE, Atlanta. 404-874-5642, colonnadeatlanta.com.
Chops Lobster Bar
Chops in Buckhead has kept the solid marriage between steak and martinis alive and well in Atlanta for over 20 years. Surrounded by expense account diners and fancy date nights, supping at Chops is nothing short of old-school elegance. For lovers of a dirty vodka martini, order the Blue Martini complete with blue cheese stuffed olives.
70 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta. 404-262-2675, buckheadrestaurants.com/restaurant/chops-lobster-bar-atl.
The award for best martini deal in the city goes to Watershed for their Friday five martini happy hour. But it’s the tight selection of craft vodkas and gins on the back bar that caught our eye; including Bluecoat barrel-finished gin from Philadelphia Distilling. This three-month, barrel-rested gin carries notes of oak and caramel similar to those in whiskey, giving a dry martini with a twist some oomph.
1820 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta. 404-809-3561, watershedrestaurant.com.
There are seven vodka martinis listed on the menu at this midtown mainstay like the 1990s classic Cosmo and a super dirty martini. For those with a sweet tooth and a hankering for a martini, order Einstein’s riff on the lemon drop with blueberry puree. The cocktail is garnished with a sugar rim.
1077 Juniper St. NE, Atlanta. 404-876-7925, einsteinsatlanta.com.
A “best of” Atlanta martini list could not exist without the inclusion of Highland Tap. It’s where burgers and steaks converge with martinis and mood lighting. After 28 years, this Virginia-Highland institution has still got it. Order a martini any which way you please and receive a solidly built beauty that comes with a sidecar to top off your cocktail. The no pretense, relaxed atmosphere here paired with a martini is hard to beat.
1026 N. Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-875-3673, nightcapfoodandspirits.com/highlandtapmain.html.
The Gibson at 8 ARM quickly became a favorite when beverage director Joshua Fryer included the classic on the cocktail menu last winter. The first published mention of this savory martini variation was in 1908 in William Boothby’s “The World’s Drinks and How To Mix Them”. The cocktail of two parts gins, one part vermouth is garnished with a pickled onion to create a subtle, dirty martini.
710 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 470-875-5856, 8armatl.com.
The elegance and sophistication of the martini are on display at Kimball House who offers on its menu a beautiful variation of the 50/50 cocktail. As the name suggests, this martini is 50 percent gin and 50 percent vermouth with a dash or two of bitters, usually orange. It’s thought to be the perfect martini. The Kimball House (named for the restaurant) includes a combination of Cocchi Americano and French vermouth. The cocktail comes with a choice of garnish (olive or lemon) atop a bed of ice in a small, crystal dish.
303 E. Howard Ave., Decatur. 404-378-3502, kimball-house.com.