We sipped our way through many martinis in our search for the best, and you know what we learned? Any bar can ice down three ounces of vodka or gin and pour it in an up glass" and CALL it a martini -- and many do -- but there are very few that do the classic version of the cocktail right. A classic martini is a combination of gin, vermouth and maybe a dash of bitters, stirred and served up with a twist (or olive). And you won't find a better martini in town than the classic cocktail poured at Encore Restaurant, winner of the Best Martini in the Best of Denver 2011.
You'll have to wait to try it, though, because Encore is taking a (spring) break this week. But here are four more great martinis we found as we drank our way around Denver, rounding out our list of the top five.
Tooey's Off Colfax Tooey's might look like the kind of place that slings more malt liquor than Manhattans, but it can still mix the classics just right. There's a certain level of geekery at play here, evidenced by the bar stocking one vermouth: Dolin's, which happens to be textbook perfect for classic martinis. Steuben's We're partial to Steuben's because it was the first joint in this city to coax us into giving the classic gin martini another chance, after the capable bar staff assured us they were not about to plop down a sorry excuse for a cocktail that would remind us of that one night in college. The result? We've ordered many martinis at the bar since, sometimes doing so to impress new suitors at the Best Blind-Date Restaurant.
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Colt & Gray Ask our pick for Best Bartender, Kevin Burke, to craft you a classic gin martini and he might do it -- or he might raise you one, instead passing over a Marguerite, which he considers to be the purest manifestation of what people mean when they ask for this cocktail. Dolin blanc, Plymouth gin and orange bitters go into that refreshing libation.
Squeaky Bean Max MacKissock nabbed our Best Chef award this year for the work he's doing at the Squeaky Bean with food, but the beverage program, with Sean Kenyon behind the stick, is formidable, too. Kenyon's playful list includes dolled-up classics and such innovative creations as the delicious Larry Tate, a blend of Old Tom gin, Dolin Blanc vermouth, orange bitters and a twist.