Perhaps the most aesthetically beautiful classic cocktail, the martini is also one of the most commonly modified. Traditionally made with gin and vermouth, the stylish tipple comes in various adaptions, too. Many swap the gin for vodka, skip the twist for olives, add brine to make it dirty, or add even more to make it filthy—you get the idea.
The icy power of a properly stirred martini (or shaken, if you must) is the ideal way to relax your senses before consuming a fatty piece of steak, hence the cocktail's massive popularity on steakhouse menus.
Beyond the traditional takes, other drinks have landed under the martini umbrella over the years: the Cosmopolitan, the Lemon Drop, and of course, the espresso martini. But, let's not debate if these drinks are technically martinis or not. They're served up, just like the standard-bearer, and they're an excellent way to start or end a steak dinner.
On that note, if you're not thirsty already, get ready. This writer has personally assessed the martinis at many chain steakhouses around the country, and this list features 10 spots that pour a bracing martini, as well as offering sweeter takes on the classic.
Well known for its happy hour, celebrity hotspot The Palm is an excellent place to order a martini, for several reasons. First, the staff always nails a traditional martini, made with gin, dry vermouth, and olives or a twist. Second, the vodka version is just as good. Finally, the other martini style drinks on the cocktail menu are inventive and the perfect way to open a meal, like the Garden Fresh Lemon Drop with Absolut Vodka, Cointreau Orange Liqueur, fresh lemon juice and bitters, garnished with cucumber and fresh dill.
The Capital Grille
Most people would assume they'd get a great classic martini at the Capital Grille, but if you're thinking beyond traditional, this restaurant's martini menu really shines. One favorite, the Kona Espresso Martini, is made with Tito's Handmade Vodka, Caffè Borghetti Espresso Liqueur, fresh espresso, Kona dust. Kona is one of the rarest coffee beans in the world, grown on a small farm on Hawaii's big island, and many consider it the most flavorful, too. The restaurant also offers a pungent Dirty Goose, a vodka martini garnished with blue cheese stuffed olives.
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse
While you can go wrong with a classic martini, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse offers an extensive collection of New Orleans-influenced martini-style cocktails that are worth a sip as well. According to the chain's Glassdoor reviews, bartenders are trained to really hone their mixology skills, so the hand-crafted signature drinks like the Raspberry Rosemary Cosmo and Hibiscus Lemon Drop Martini are going to deliver.
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
While known for its deep wine collection and impressive pours by the glass, Fleming's is also a top choice for an excellent martini. The restaurant excels at both gin and vodka martinis, and has an extensive cocktail list with California-influenced martini-style cocktails, such as the Blueberry Lemon Drop, which adds bright fresh blueberries to the drink, and the Espresso Martini, made with fresh brewed espresso, Kahlua, and Stolichnaya Vanil.
Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse
This upscale chain seems to be opening a new location—or, a more casual Del Frisco's Grille—every time you turn around. It's a good thing, because the bartenders at this steakhouse know their way around creating a great martini. One of the chain's most popular cocktails, the VIP Martini, is served up (of course) and blends 360 Mandarin Orange vodka with fresh pineapple. Simple, sweet, and potent, it's the perfect way to kick off an indulgent evening.
Smith & Wollensky
Founded in 1977, this nearly 50-year-old storied steakhouse chain, with locations in New York, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Miami, and more, is an excellent spot for an evening starting (and ending) with a gin martini. However, the restaurant prides itself on a deep specialty cocktail list with creative options like the Razz-tini, made with Three Olives Raspberry vodka, Bols Peach liqueur, Chambourd, and fresh raspberries. There's also the sophisticated and unexpected Old Hollywood, made with Three Olives Marilyn vodka, Moet and Chandon Champagne, and yogurt liqueur.
Morton's the Steakhouse
With 65 locations around the United States, this 45-year-old steakhouse is a go-to for celebrations, and that often includes martinis. Like every other steakhouse on this list, this writer can confirm the restaurant makes a killer traditional martini. However, Morton's also offers a regularly updated seasonal cocktail list that varies by location, but could include a perfect dirty called The Mortini with Grey Goose vodka or Bombay Sapphire gin with hand-stuffed blue cheese olives that can be made filthy upon request. For a sweeter take on an up drink, try the Lavender Cosmo with Botanist gin, Cointreau, lavender, cranberry, and lime.
You'll find your share of cocktails at this celebrity favorite steakhouse, with locations in Beverly Hills (naturally), Miami, Las Vegas, New York and Scottsdale, Ariz. While the restaurant doesn't offer a consistent cocktail menu across its many locations, this writer had excellent luck with gin martinis at the New York and Boston locations. The chain offers specialty drinks for each location, or specials at all of them, and it's worth checking the Facebook page to see what the bartenders mixing up, like the Elder & Wiser, made with Belvedere Lemon and Basil Vodka, Hendrick's Gin, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, a lemon sugar rim, and basil garnish.
With eight U.S. locations in the New York and Boston areas, this smaller high-end chain does steak well, and it's no slouch in the cocktail department, either. While the cocktail menu may vary, Wolfgang's always offers a straight martini with dry gin and dry vermouth. Simple, icy, and the ideal start to a steak dinner.
This upscale steakhouse chain is a favorite for its wide-ranging menu of Italian-inflected chops, entrées, and pasta dishes. The cocktail menu follows the same, with an incredible Hot & Dirty Martini, made with Tito's Handmade vodka, hot pepper juice, olive juice, and blue cheese olives.