The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 5 Martinis
For the next 20 weeks, we'll be rounding up the runners-up to our 2011 Best of Houston® winners. In many categories, picking each year's winner is no easy task. We'll be spotlighting 20 of those categories, in which the winner had hefty competition from other Houston bars and restaurants.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
There's something about the kind of place that specializes in a good martini -- a true martini, I might add, and not one made with vodka -- that typically lends itself to a certain clientele.
Customers ordering legit martinis are not the same people you'll find ordering appletinis at Midtown clubs or vodka martinis at River Oaks hot spots. Martini drinkers are, on the whole, a more mature set -- not necessarily in age, but in attitude -- and therefore more appreciative of liquor's taste, choosing not to mask it with sugary syrups or juices.
Many bars that specialize in the classic cocktail also have a darker side to them, too. Marfreless is a good example of the dirtier side of martini bars, and there's a reason that people have nicknamed the bar on Sandman "The Davensnort."
Keep your nose clean, though, and a true martini bar can be a thing of beauty.
Photo by Troy Fields
You can get benjy's popular martinis for only $6 apiece at its equally popular weekly happy hours -- at either the original Rice Village location or the new space on Washington -- and that's not all. You'll want to eat something with benjy's super-strength martinis, and the happy hour menu is filled with delicious $5 tidbits to make sure you don't leave too tipsy.
4. Flora & Muse
Photo by Troy Fields
As with benjy's, the weekday happy hour at Flora & Muse is very generous: Your martini is half-off Mondays through Fridays. The stunning, European-inspired bar is exactly the kind of richly toned place where you can happily while away the hours over one of its solidly constructed cocktails. Flora & Muse has silly, fruity martinis for those who are into that sort of thing, but its standard gin martinis are simple, unfussy and well-built -- the best of both worlds.
3. The State Bar
Now this looks like a martini bar.
State Bar doesn't seem to belong in the 21st century at all. The official-looking seals outside may lead you to believe you're walking past some government agency, and upstairs you could be forgiven for expecting to run into Sam Rayburn or even Sam Houston at any moment. The sizable wooden bartop and vintage chairs, tables and leather sofas give the impression of a swanky old hotel lounge -- like The Shining's Overlook minus the dance floor. Once inside, you'll be rewarded with a stiff martini that mirrors the classic look of the place in both feel and flavor.