Shaken, Not Stirred…In Search of the Perfect French Martini

Elizabeth, our martini docent!

Elizabeth, our martini docent!

Three time Gal Pal and my assistant extraordinaire for the France 2013 Luxury Trip,  Elizabeth, was our veteran martini taster and reviewer. She drank many a cocktail in the name of research to bring to you our French martini guide. Many olives were consumed in this effort…

From Elizabeth: The Venerable Martini

James Bond, Winston Churchill and Carrie Bradshaw all understood the panache associated with ordering and drinking a martini.  Historically made with gin but popularized in the 1930s with vodka, this cocktail is a classic and my favorite! Although Bordeaux is the Gal Pal’s “go to” drink, I try to squeeze in a martini here and there while traveling.  This has historically proved to be mission impossible until this year.

My first Gal Pal trip to Paris in 2010 I often ordered my “Absolute Martini, dirty, up, olives – no Vermouth” only to find a pair of French eyes looking back at me in dismay and confusion.  I would then launch into a slower, further description of my ideal cocktail and still received, at best, blank stares.  Going into emergency order mode I tried to communicate only the most important words, “vodka, cold, olive juice, olives.”  Usually this would assure communication but still they could not produce my order correctly.  In the event they at least understood I wanted vodka, often showed up with no olives at all!  And every time if they had added olives they would still claim not to have olive juice to put into the drink!  I wondered what on earth all those olives came in??  Usually I just gave up and ordered, “Bordeaux s’il vous plaît.”

Awaiting our cocktails at Côté Lounge, Nice

Awaiting our cocktails at Côté Lounge, Nice

I don’t know what happened in France between 2010 and 2013 but not only was my drink order understood this trip, many high quality cocktails were produced!  My first martini of the trip was sitting outside at Côté Lounge in Nice.  Nice cold vodka and one olive.  I was thrilled I did not get the anticipated blank stare, it did have an olive (though no juice) and it was the first of the trip so the desire level was high! Rating: Good

Over the ensuing 10 days I had martinis at an additional six bars and restaurants with some notable highlights.   Not only did the Saphir 24 Lounge and Bar at the Fairmont Monte Carlo have a beautiful view, it served a beautiful martini as well.  Plenty of high-end vodkas to choose from, plenty of olives and a miracle – olive juice!  Rating: Very Good

Bar snacks and great drinks at Fairmont Monte Carlo's Saphir Lounge

Bar snacks and great drinks at Fairmont Monte Carlo’s Saphir Lounge

My martini at the picturesque Chateau Eza was special as it was served after the ordeal of getting to Chateau Eza (more on that from Priscilla I am sure!)  It was “shaken, not stirred” as it had tiny chips of ice in it – something that experts say creates a more rounded flavor.  Two olives and perhaps even a tiny bit of olive juice.  Rating: Excellent, but there might be easier places to get one!

Laurent in Paris offered a delightful martini, however, it was on the small side. Notable for being beautifully shaken, THREE olives and just the right touch of olive juice.  A stand out for sure. Rating: Very Good

Surprisingly one of the best martinis I had was at the Tweet Up hosted by Priscilla and The Weekend in Paris.   The Tweet Up was held at Le China, a very unusual establishment – I felt like I was in Shanghai in a clandestine meeting.  But to my surprise they served an excellent martini.  Complete with olives and olive juice.  Again, the glass was a bit on the small side but tasty nevertheless.  Rating: Very Good+

Chateau Eze patio, Bordeaux pour moi et un martini pour Elizabeth

Chateau Eze patio, Bordeaux pour moi et un martini pour Elizabeth

I was excited when we checked into Hotel Montalembert, in Paris, because they had a charming lobby bar.  It was a standard smallish sized bar with a pleasant ambiance but to my mind the poor bartender needed some lessons in drink making.  He was very nice and tried hard but I had to revert to my old ways and described exactly what I wanted, “cold vodka, olives and olive juice.”  And bless his heart he came back with vodka, olives, olive juice all mixed with Martini and Rossi!  Yuck!  Rating: A for effort but sadly Not Good

Just a few of the steps to Chateau Eze - 100's more in heels to go!

Just a few of the steps to Chateau Eze – 100’s more in heels to go!

One of my most memorable martinis of the trip was in Monte Carlo.  After dinner Gal Pal leader, Priscilla and I ventured into the famous and beautiful Hotel De Paris to the bar for an aperitif.  Café American served the perfect martini made even more enjoyable with a great band and the classic ambiance of dark mahogany and cozy chairs.  The martini, with Grey Goose vodka, shaken with ice chips, three olives and the perfect amount of olive juice in a generous glass was the best of the trip.  Rating: Excellent +

All in all the 2013 Gal Pal trip was a martini success and I look forward to more martinis in Paris!

Happiness is… finding two olives in your martini when you are hungry.

           — Johnny Carson

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4 Comments
  • Anita Mac
    Posted at 10:34h, 12 March Reply

    Sounds delightful!

    • Weekend In Paris
      Posted at 10:42h, 12 March Reply

      Hi Anita,

      Thanks so much for writing in about this post. I rarely have a martini, but when I get to travel with friends I like them to have what they want like to drink. It’s been fun watching Elizabeth check out all her options. I pretty much stuck to my Bordeaux and Burgundy but did join our group of friends in a Brandy Alexander one night and loved it!

      Please keep reading!

      Cheers,
      Priscilla

  • Laurel
    Posted at 10:53h, 11 March Reply

    Great Post, I’m really enjoying hearing about your trip. Can’t wait until I can go to Paris.

    • Weekend In Paris
      Posted at 11:26h, 11 March Reply

      Dear Laurel,

      Thanks for writing in to let me know you liked the post. I always love to hear from my readers, and especially about what makes them like Paris. When do you plan to go? This year, next year or is it a goal for now? If it is only a goal I suggest you write it down where you can see it every day and put a note in your wallet with your credit cards or cash that simply say, “PARIS” so when you are making a decision to NOT buy something, you then take that money and put it in your “Paris piggy bank” some place safe. You would be surprised how quickly it adds up. Do this and you will be headed to Paris in no time!

      Please keep reading and commenting.

      Cheers,
      Priscilla

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