There are seemingly endless ways to make a martini—dirty, dry, perfect, shaken, stirred, with a twist, on the rocks, strained—the list goes on and on, but the components stay the same. The gin and vermouth–based drink can come bright and easy to stomach or can pack a heavy punch. Whether you like yours cold as ice or with a piney gin, we found our favorites at Chicago's best cocktail bars, steakhouses and seafood joints.
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If you like your martini as cold as it can get, this one’s for you. It’s served in a traditional martini glass but comes with a carafe filled with more of the drink set inside crushed ice to keep it icy. Made with a rotating selection of gin and vermouth, topped with orange bitters and garnished with a lemon peel, this one’s not for the faint of heart. $12.
This is the choose-your-own-adventure of martinis. The Cherry Circle Room lets you pick all of your components. Gins vary in strengths of juniper and vermouths range from dry to extra dry. You even have your choice of garnish—olive, onion or lemon twist. While your bartender can walk you through each of your choices, we were big fans of the Aviation Gin with Vya Extra Dry Vermouth and a lemon twist. $12.
At Maple and Ash, the cocktail menu begins with two pages detailing the history of the martini, with a corresponding house martini for each era, starting in 1848. Our favorite is the Savory, a “modern expression” with St. George Terroir gin, La Quintinye Extra Dry vermouth and Bitter Truth cucumber bitters. It’s bright and refreshing and garnished with a sprig of thyme for an herbaceous touch. $16.
The martini at CH is made with your choice of one of the distillery’s spirits—choose from CH Vodka, Key Gin or London Dry Gin and your pick of an olive or a twist. It’s a strong one that definitely lets the spirit shine through. Our favorite? The Key Gin with a twist. $12.
One of the best things about Best Intentions is the care the bartenders take in shaping each of their classic cocktails. The ratios on the martini is widely debated, but Best Intentions uses a 2:1 gin to vermouth ratio, with Rutte Dry gin and Dolin Dry vermouth. It’s served stirred straight up with a twist, but if you’d like, they’ll serve it on the rocks as well. $10.