“Three-Martini Lunch” – The History of America’s Signature Cocktail

Jimmy Carter once stated that the “working class was subsidizing the $50 martini lunch”, and that statement still holds true today in the Nation’s Capital.

Like many legends, there is some stipulation on where the origin of the martini lies; in the town of Martinez, California during the mid-1800s Gold Rush, or New York City where a bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia began serving a cocktail made with gin, vermouth, orange bitters, and an olive garnish. Either way, this robust and refined cocktail is still everything we hope to be while ordering one at our local bar.

Photo Credit: HBO

Martinis in Pop Culture

Mad MenJames Bond, and Sex and the City are three pop culture references often associated with martinis and mayhem in a city. Whether shaken or stirred, our leading protagonists drink chilled cocktails after a long day. Roger Sterling challenges Don Draper to another round of dry, vodka martinis and oysters over lunch, and Carey Bradshaw sips Cosmos with the ladies while discussing her latest bad date.

In real life, we have cocktail connoisseurs like Ernest Hemingway, Franklin Roosevelt, Frank Sinatra, and Dorothy Parker who claim the martini as their signature drink. Hemingway once proclaimed his new love for martinis stating “I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized.” Sophisticated and smooth, the martini still lives on as America’s most stylish cocktail.

Photo Credit: Thomas D. McAvoy

The Big Three

Classic Martini: If you don’t try any other martini, the classic vodka or gin creation is the one you need to check off your bucket list: three parts vodka or gin to one part dry vermouth, garnished with an olive or lemon peel. Substitute these garnishes with a pickled onion and you have a Gibson, or add in a touch of olive juice to make it dirty. The epitome of sophistication and urban exclusivity, these gems never go out of style.

Manhattan: If whiskey is more your style, than a Manhattan is your next go-to cocktail. Two parts whiskey, one part sweet vermouth, a dash of bitters, and a maraschino cherry for garnish brings this caramel-colored concoction to life. First created at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the early 1870s, this cocktail still reigns as a Manhattanite favorite.

Cosmopolitan: The Cosmo’s origin is often associated with either New York City or South Beach, though no hard evidence remains for either. However, in the 1990s, America was swept up in the iconic New York City comedy series Sex and the City, where writer Carey Bradshaw made Cosmopolitans trendy. 2 ounces vodka, 1/2 ounce triple sec, 3/4 ounce cranberry juice cocktail, 1/4 ounce fresh lime juice, and an orange twist complete this fashionable sidekick for a night out with the girls.

Photo Credit: Eon

Martinis in D.C.

Although you can request a number of martinis at any establishment with a full bar, here are some of my favorite places to sip these classic cocktails after work, or during a “three-martini lunch”.

Off the Record – 800 16th Street NW

Old Ebbitt Grill – 675 15th Street NW

Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab – 750 15th Street NW

PJ Clarke’s – 1600 K Street NW

Trump International Hotel – 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Of course…the HungryLobbyist himself had to add:

Prime Rib — 2020 K Street NW

The Palm — 1225 19th Street NW

Leave a Reply