Have You Seen A Modern Martini Bar in Phoenix?

Have You Seen A Modern Martini Bar in Phoenix?

Very few drinks in the history of cocktails have undergone such deep contemplation as the martini. E.B. White once called it “the elixir of solitude.” The prolific writer and legendary lover of a good drink Ernest Hemingway wrote in A Farewell To Arms, “I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized.” Essayist H.L. Mencken went so far as to call the martini “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” It’s been called Fred Astaire in a glass; it’s been called satin, fire, and ice. What is this magical drink, the uninitiated might ask? How shall we put it? It’s a martini, pure and simple.

At this point in history, martini as a name is ubiquitous. Anyone who’s had even glancing contact with the James Bond franchise will recall Bond’s “shaken, not stirred” requirement for his martini. Anyone who has even spent a little time in the bar will recognize the glass required for a martini: a martini glass. Yet well-known as it is in the present vernacular, the origins of the martini remain clouded in the fog of history. 

Here is what we know with surety. At the onset of the 19th century, we have no extant record of mentions of a martini. By the end of the 19th century, the martini began to appear in menus from San Francisco to New York. How exactly the martini came to be invented is unknown, but there are essentially three competing theories.

First, we’ll step back in time to turn-of-the-century New York. New York was abuzz with the possibilities engendered by the industrial revolution. Bigwigs like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were beginning to transform the country from the ground up, interconnecting its people with the railways, developing industry, and setting the framework that would see the United States’ rise as the world superpower following World War II. 

In the world-class Knickerbocker hotel (still in operation today), legend has it a barman named Martini di Armi di Taggia was working a shift when Knickerbocker regular John D. Rockefeller came asking for a drink. Taggia whipped up an “unfamiliar concoction,” and the industrialist loved it so much that he christened it the martini, after its inventor. 

While it’s possible that the martini originated in the lap of luxury, this may just be wishful thinking on the part of New Yorkers. A much grittier tale holds that it wasn’t turn of the century New York but a gold rush-era California that birthed the martini. In this telling, a ‘49er looking for gold in Martinez, California struck it rich one day and, on top of the world, ordered champagne from the local barman. In a very Wild West California, such luxuries weren’t easy to come by, but the barman promised he’d do his best. His celebratory concoction came to be called the martini, after the town from whence it came. 

A third telling, more a slight variation on the theme of the second than a new tale, holds that a San Francisco bartender whipped up the martini as a pick-me-up before a certain miner hit the road for panhandling in Martinez. 

Some things will always remain obscured by the steady march of time. It’s very likely that we will never know the exact origins of the martini. Still, we know with certainty that by the mid-1920s, the martini had become essentially serialized in the form we know it today. 

This recipe, which featured vermouth, bitters, gin, and a lemon peel, gained immediate popularity for two reasons. The first: martinis taste great. The second: during the roaring ‘20s in the USA, at the height of prohibition, gin was relatively easy to manufacture and distribute illegally. 

Following World War II, the martini’s popularity increased internationally as both the cultural capital of a distinctly “American beverage” began to gain appeal and as gin manufacturers began to advertise their products more intensely.

Now, in the 21st century, the martini continues to evolve, but its name has expanded well beyond “shaken, not stirred.” Now, throughout the country, mixologists are coming up with brand new takes on the martini that are sure to delight lovers of the classic drink and those who are new to martinis. New liquors are being experimented with, and new flavors are being added. Indeed, the martini’s long, strange history leads us by a twist of fate (and a twist or two of lemon peel) to the land of sunshine, the home of the Suns, that’s right — to Phoenix, Arizona. 

36 Below is a Phoenix Martini Bar offering craft martini, beers, and wine to the good people of Arizona. Stop by our martini bar downtown Phoenix for delightful takes with fresh flavors. Take, for example, The Genesis. The Genesis is martini art incarnate: Fig-infused vodka meets with lychee, peach, and citrus flavors to create a taste akin to the explosion of life described in Genesis. 

Try also the Gate to Eden. The Gate to Eden is one of the best martinis in Phoenix, at 36 Below or elsewhere. The Gate of Eden features rye whiskey rather than the classic gin mixed perfectly with pineapple, grapefruit, and rhubarb liqueurs. 

For a gin recipe, one of Phoenix best martinis is Roku Nomu, a distinctly Japanese take on the martini. With Roku Nomu, Japanese Roku Gin is mixed together with plum and coconut to create a sweet yet deep flavor combination sure to set your tastebuds alight. 

As you can see, the history of the martini is not done, and it likely never will be. The name martini has, in fact, become synonymous not with a particular drink or recipe but with a way of life, a way of thinking about the world. 36 Below pays homage to the rich and storied history of the martini while understanding that there is still more to be written. One of the best places to have martinis in Phoenix, 36 Below understands the martini both for what it was and what it will be.

Stop in today for one of our signature craft martinis, and you too can play a small part in this drink’s ever-growing history.