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Bar Crawl: The Musso & Frank martini

July 9, 2010 |  1:06 pm

I take pleasure in simplicity: reading Philip K. Dick on my patio when the sun is setting and the nearby church bells are clanging; finding a completely mind-bending pair of high heels in a thrift store that just happen to fit me and cost $3; talking to a man who instantly shares my irrational hatred for the music of Santana; and riding my bike to get a pedicure and having to walk it home wearing those flimsy little rubber flip flops because my nails are still wet and I can't put my shoes back on. 

But nothing makes me happier than drinking a cold, clean, crisp martini. And for my money the best basic martini in town can still be found at Musso & Frank. Maybe it's the old wooden bar, or the dignified bartenders in their red jackets that start my heart melting, but surely there is a touch of magic in the way those bartenders twist and flick their wrists as they stir the gin or vodka in a glass of ice and pour it deftly into a regular-sized martini glass -- not one of those ridiculous oversized numbers that you find at newfangled restaurants and nightclubs nearby.

Then there are the olives, fat and meaty and full of salty reserves of juice that infuse the cold liquor with the perfect pickled tang. And lets not forget the miniature decanters that the excess vodka is poured into and how those little vessels of sweet truth serum are delivered in rocks glasses filled with crushed ice the color and texture of melting snow.

I was reminded of my love for the Musso & Frank martini last night when I brought a friend who had just moved to town to the bar to experience one. My friend is a bartender and she likes -- and makes -- fancy creations. She immediately ordered a French martini. The bartenders looked at each other, not quite knowing how to respond. They didn't have the requisite Chambord anyway, so I gently suggested to my friend that she settle for a classic martini.

The bartender whipped it up with assurance and speed, and when he poured the glistening liquid into her glass he said, "This isn't a French martini. It's a Musso & Frank martini."


Martinis from $8.50 to $11. Musso & Frank Grill, 6667 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 467-7788. www.mussoandfrankgrill.com.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times