Savory Martinis Are All Over DC Right Now

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Over dirty martinis? Here’s where to accent gin or vodka with sesame, mustard, and other flavors.

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Caruso’s Grocery is behind the antipasti martini – a blend of tomato gin, basil, mozzarella, and olives –making it perfect to pair with your Italian dinner. Photograph by LeadingDC.

For lovers of stiff drinks that are spicy, briny, or…mustardy, this is your moment. Here are eight savory martini riffs around DC.

Antipasti Martini at Caruso’s Grocery

1401 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 11820 Trade St., North Bethesda

Nick Farrell, beverage directer at this pair of Italian-American dining rooms, channels an antipasti plate with this drink’s garnishes: basil, olives, and an orb of mozzarella. Inside the glass, there’s both olive and mozzarella brine, plus gin that’s distilled with tomatoes. Also nice: the $10 pricetag.

Sesame Martini at Tonari

707 Sixth St., NW

This restaurant behind Capital One Arena specializes in traditional Italian food through a Japanese lens. Beverage director Laggy Batjargal’s smooth and toasty drink ($14) follows suit, with its mix of sesame shochu, Italian gin, dry vermouth, and yellow chartreuse, plus sesame oil on top.

“Hmm”—Honey Mustard Martini—at L’Annexe

2917 M St., NW

Hakim Hamid, beverage director at this Georgetown cocktail bar, says this drink ($22) is inspired by his childhood love of honey mustard. It features mustard-infused vodka and Lillet Blanc, and is sweetened with honey syrup and vermouth-brushed honeycomb.

The Donahue’s martini has rich notes of caviar and truffle with a spicy white pepper tincture. Photo courtesy of the Donahue.

Martini & Caviar at Donahue

1338 Wisconsin Ave., NW

Part of this Georgetown lounge’s “Prestige Collection” of libations, this luxe martini ($55) is made with caviar-and-truffle-infused vodka, chamomile, Mancino vermouth, and a white-pepper tincture. Extra gilt comes in the form of Urbani Kaluga caviar, served on the side.

Olive Oil Martini at Thompson Italian

124 N Washington St., Falls Church; 1024 King St., Alexandria

This Falls Church Italian spot—and its newer Old Town sibling—infuses Grey Goose vodka with Sapori Divini extra virgin olive oil for one week, then mixes it with Dolin dry vermouth and adds a sprinkle of Maldon salt and a blood-orange twist ($18). The Alexandria location also serves up a cacio e pepe gimlet with parmesan-accented vodka.

Caperberry Martini at L’Avant Garde

2915 M St., NW

Caperberries—the fully-bloomed fruits from caper plants—have a more subtle flavor than capers, but still provide a briny bite. Hakim Hamid, who is also beverage director at this swank French hotspot, even says that they “exploded his palate.” He mixes caperberry brine with French gin, Cirrus vodka, Lillet Rose, dry vermouth, and lemon bitters  for an elegant spin ($22) on a dirty martini.

L’Ardente’s Whet Martini has an herbal touch. Photo by Mike Fuentes Photography, courtesy of L’Ardente.

Whet Martini with Basil Oil at L’Ardente

200 Massachusetts Ave., NW

Micah Wilder, this glam Italian spot‘s beverage director, says his wife finds that one martini is never enough, but two is too much. So, he created this wet martini ($16), which is heavy on vermouth and thus easier to knock back in multiples, thanks to the fortified wine’s lower alcohol content. The drink is stirred ice-cold then topped with basil oil.

“The Potomac”—a Truffled Dirty Martini—at Bourbon Steak

2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Michael Mina’s steakhouse at the Four Seasons has always made a mean dirty martini. This riff ($20) ups the umami factor with truffle-brine-infused Absolut Elyx vodka and pecorino-stuffed olives.


The Za'artini is Drew Hairston's nutty, floral, and savory take on the average dirty martini. Photo courtesy of Baltz & Company.
The Za’artini at Kirby Club. Photo courtesy of Baltz & Company.

Za’artini at Kirby Club

2911 District Ave., Fairfax

Kirby Club, which Rose Previte opened in the Mosaic District in December, shares something in common with its DC sibling Maydan: they both serve za’atar-spiced martinis. For this version ($15), beverage director Drew Hairston starts with gin or vodka infused with locally-sourced za’atar (a mixture of sesame, sumac, and salt) and lemon zest. That’s mixed with Capitoline Blanc vermouth and topped off with olives stuffed with shanklish— a soft and spicy cheese—and a few drops of sumac-sesame oil.

Tory Basile

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