From Martinis made with Prohibition-style “bathtub gin” to modern concoctions like the Skinny Margarita, cocktail culture in America has always been reflective of where the country is socially and economically.

After the end of the Mad Men era and its famed three-Martini lunches came to a screeching halt, cocktails became an afterthought when club culture moved to the forefront of the social scene. Bartenders weren’t expected to utilize everything from lychees to espresso beans as they are now. That all changed when an interest in craft cocktails reemerged and ushered in the cocktail renaissance of the late ‘90s and early aughts.

Inspired by the growing trend of tiki bars, the industry started experimenting with different juices and flavors. Restaurateur Keith McNally is one person who completely capitalized on this movement. A true rags-to-riches entrepreneur, McNally abandoned a failing acting career to launch some of the greatest establishments in New York, including The Odeon, Pastis, Minetta Tavern, and the infamous Balthazar, just to name a few. Consistently frequented by the New York elite, McNally’s restaurants and bars became the perfect testing grounds for these new recipes. He created the French Martini for the now-closed Pravda, but it didn’t gain notoriety until he put it on the menu at Balthazar in 1996.

The drink is simply composed of vodka, pineapple juice, and raspberry liqueur (usually Chambord) and garnished with a lemon twist. Ironically, the only thing French about this Martini is the Chambord. After Balthazar, many other establishments adopted the French Martini, choosing their own ratio of ingredients. The current recipe at Balthazar’s varies slightly from the original and uses crème de cassis, which is actually a liqueur made from blackcurrants instead of Chambord. As the cocktail renaissance led to the craft movement, the French Martini maintained its popularity and is now considered a modern classic. In other words, any good bartender should be able to make you a solid French Martini.


French Martini cocktail with garnish, bar top

French Martini

Photo by Chris-Duncan/Shutterstock

French Martini

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Vodka
  • .75 oz. Fresh Pineapple Juice
  • .75 oz. Chambord
  • Raspberry or Lemon Twist (for Garnish)

Preparation: Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice. Shake and double strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a raspberry or lemon twist.