There’s just something about the martini. It’s a classic drink that evokes mystery and comfort simultaneously. It’s strong, and it may make you feel cool or sophisticated when you order it. People may copy James Bond’s “shaken, not stirred” order or perhaps a fruity-flavored rendition makes you feel like you’re channeling popular television characters.
Truthfully, there is an impressive array of martinis on menus around San Diego. With so many options, you’re sure to find something that goes with your personal preferences and schedule. There are fruity versions, spicy versions and even classic-tasting martinis made with truly unique ingredients. When made by the right bartender, a martini will be flavorful and drinkable.
Knowing the basics can help you better appreciate the detail that goes into an excellent craft cocktail. A traditional martini is made with gin and vermouth, often garnished with a stuffed olive or perhaps a twist of lemon. Vodka martinis have become increasingly common and popular, as have martinis that omit vermouth altogether.
Whether you’re a frequent martini drinker or just a casual fan of this classic cocktail, we’ve curated a list of four awesome places to order a martini just to your liking. The next time you’re in the mood for a good stiff drink, pop into any of these establishments.
Get Fun and Flirty in Hillcrest at Martini’s Above Fourth
Located in Hillcrest, Martinia Above Fourth Table + Stage is a must-visit for any true fan of this classic cocktail. As the name suggests, this establishment prides itself on making a mean martini. In fact, their menu includes more than 100 specialty martinis and other creative cocktails.
They also serve food, much of which is ideal for a night out and a show. Their appetizers include a bacon platter, tempura-fried peppers, and mac & cheese with a range of proteins. Main dishes include pulled pork, burgers, chicken and even adobo roasted chicken or pasta. For dessert, you can pick from seasonal selections of tarts, cheesecake, sorbet and gelato.
The martinis here really stand out. Their Above Fourth is made with Ketel One Oranje Vokda, pomegranate liqueur and a twist of lemon. The Chocolate Truffle features Svedka Vanilla Vodka and Godiva’s dark and white chocolate liqueurs. It’s served in a chocolate lattice martini glass. The Thin Mint offers a take on your favorite Girl Scout cookies, with Van Gogh chocolate vodka, Bailey’s mint chocolate liqueur, creme de menthe and heavy cream. They have just about any flavor you can dream of in a martini glass, including lychee and acai berry.
No Need To Hide the Drinks at Prohibition Lounge, Cheers!
If you’d like live music and a classy, adult-friendly atmosphere, head into Prohibition in Gaslamp. They don’t allow cellphones at the bar, and they enforce rules against unsolicited advances on patrons. This venue really wants to embrace a prohibition-era feel, from the décor to the music and even the clientele.
On Friday and Saturday nights, they really try for that 1920s appeal. Dress code will be enforced on these nights, so don’t try to show up in sandals, shorts or ball caps.
Prohibition doesn’t take reservations, but that’s part of the charm. Stop by on a Wednesday, when things are a little slower, and sip your martini while listening to some live music. Try out the “Flight of the Navigator,” made with Old Harbor San Miguel Gin, dry vermouth and a house-brined onion.
For those who don’t like martinis, never fret! Their house cocktail menu includes drinks named for pop culture movies of late. If you like things fruity, consider the “These Are Not the Droids You’re Looking For,” made with tequila, lime, allspice, averna and apple flavored Jarritos. There’s also the “Falcor” and “You’re Killing Me Smalls.”
Get and Excellent Martini at Ginger’s
Another great option for martini bars in Gaslamp, Ginger’s offers a more upscale ambience and tapas if you need a snack. Located just below Barleymash at the corner of Fifth and Market, Ginger’s is a great place to grab a martini or even order a snack, like pretzels and cheese or flavorful flatbreads. Although the space can be quite busy, it will still seem like a calm retreat after time in Barleymash.
They have an industrial chic look going, with modern and upscale vintage touches throughout, making it a comfortable, eclectic and classy establishment that can easily be billed as a speak easy. They offer a range of cocktails, including champagne cocktails and a full martini bar. If you are with someone who prefers brews, they have a decent selection and good prices on some very great beers.
If you’re looking for somewhere for a special event, Ginger’s does host groups, even during off hours. Whether you need an escape from a night out or a little downtime to relax with a well-staffed martini bar, Ginger’s is it!
Get Bougy at Kettner Exchange Rooftop Bar in Little Italy
Location: 2001 Kettner Blvd. (map)
Hours: Monday-Wednesday: 5 p.m. to midnight, Thursday and Friday: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to midnight
Craving a martini when you’re in Little Italy? Stop into Kettner Exchange for a drink and perhaps one of the best dinners you’ve ever had. The Kettner Exchange is unique in that it’s located on a rooftop and features cabanas for guests. There are plenty of amazing rooftop establishments in San Diego, but Kettner’s is one of a few with a martini bar!
They’re a great choice whether you’re out for a drink with coworkers after hours or an evening with your date. They can even host larger parties of 13 or more with a little advance notice. You can arrange for a vast assortment of refreshments, including boutique wines, classic cocktails in individual glasses or by the decanter and even self-serve private beer taps.
The cocktail menu changes regularly to feature seasonal options, but you can always count on a wide range of top-shelf liquors and liqueurs. The food menu is equally impressive, including tuna tacos, an assortment of fresh seafoods, duck meatballs and even oak roasted chicken. If you’re feeling insanely hungry, you can order up the 45-ounce bone-in ribeye steak, as long as you have an hour to wait. This rooftop lounge is unique among Little Italy eateries and a standout city-wide.