Bar Review: Mr. V’s Bar and Grill, La Mirada, CA

Martini Glass UprightMartini Glass UprightI recently was in the neighborhood of Mr. V’s Bar and Grill.  I had been in this bar many times in the pre-blog past.  But my recent travels had not brought me in the vicinity.  So this time I looked forward taking notes on their Martini.

First I should mention that Mr. V’s is located in a small strip mall tucked behind a gas station in a mostly residential part of suburbia.  About as innocuous of a location as you could possibly find.  You could easily drive right by it an miss it.  Parking can be a problem, but they do offer free valet.

The decor is classic: lots of wood, tall booths with high backed seats, and real flowers at the table.  A good place for a romantic date.

The food is excellent, the menu is extensive, the service is prompt and friendly.  The bar itself is very well stocked with a good selection of cognacs.

But the Martini is what I came for and I was very pleased.   The martini was large, cold, dry, and excellently shaken.  Did I mention large.  Poured to the rim in a very large chilled martini glass.  This is not a place for dainty or wimpy stems.  In fact one has to be very careful with the first sips so as not to spill.

Its a little out of the way and easy to miss, but it is worth a visit for the food and the martini.  In fact, it’s worth a visit just for the martini.

May 11: Happy Birthday to Franciscus Sylvius

Today, May 11, is the  birthday of Franciscus Sylvius, a Dutch physician and the inventor of Gin.

At least by some accounts.   He is often credited as the inventor of Gin in the mid 1600s.   However, this is open to some debate.  Jenever is reference in Philip Massinger’s play “The Duke of Milan”, 1623.  Jenever is Dutch for Juniper so it appears that Genever would be a juniper flavored drink, à la Gin.  Additionally, in 1606 the Dutch had already levied taxes on Jenever and similar liquors.

So who invented Gin?  Does it really matter?  Whether it was Mr. Sylvius  or not, someone did and we should all be thankful.   And May 11 seems as good a day as any to celebrate the birth of Gin.


Can the Martini be too cold?

Can a martini be too cold?  A sacrilegious thought?   Well, maybe…..

As is well known to my diligent readers, I make every effort to create a very cold, long lasting cold, martini.

But one of the many things that makes Gin superior to Vodka is the wonderful aromatics of the spirit.  And as a drink get colder the aromatics are less intense.  According to Alton Brown, Gin “starts to loose some of its aromatic qualities once it drops below 30”.   Since most taste actually comes from your nose, losing the aromatics would make the taste of the drink less complex.

Can a martini be too cold?  Actually, yes!

But I’m not too worried.  I’ve never encountered a bar or restaurant martini that cold.  Even at home with my freezer gin, freezer stored crystal stem, freezer ice, and refrigerated vermouth by the time I mix and shake the martini its above 30 degrees.    But I think I’ll get a thermometer… just to check.


Check out @Shkn_Nt_Strrd on Twitter for general Gin, Martini, Bond-ish fun.

Juniperus Communis

What makes a gin a gin?  Juniperus Communis!

More specifically the berry of this particular species of Juniper.  Yes, there are many species of “Juniper” trees: 52 or 67, depending on which Botanist you choose to believe.  The berries of each species have different flavors, though of course they are mostly similar.  But Juniperus Communis is the principal source of juniper flavoring for Gin.

Certainly this spice is not the only flavoring in your favorite Gin.  Additional spices and botanicals may include citrus (lemon, orange peel, lime peel etc.), anise, licorice, cinnamon, almond, saffron, coriander, nutmeg, cassia, and other, more exotic and rare, spices.  But all Gins have, or should have, a bit of Juniper.

Interestingly, the ‘berry’ is not really a berry.  It is the female seed cone of this evergreen tree.  This cone is very small with coalescing scales which fuse together to form a “berry”-like structure.  The berries are usually blue, as with the Juniperus Communis.  But other species of Juniper may have red-brown or orange berries.


So the next time you enjoy your Perfect Martini lift a toast to Juniperus Communis.


Bar Review: Smith & Wollensky, Philadelphia

I was recently in Philadelphia and stopped by Smith & Wollensky with the intent of reporting on their martini.

I had been in this restaurant before with a couple of friends and we had a great time.  Their steaks are absolutely marvelous, really outstanding.  The service was exceptional.  We even talked our way into a tour of their onsite dry aging ‘room’.  The chef joined us to give us the tour.   A fascination and informative experience.

I was really looking forward to reviewing their Martini.  However, when I ordered my usual they told me they were out of Sapphire and wouldn’t be ‘restocking’.  A very odd comment I thought.

Upon inquiry it turns out that the Philadelphia Smith & Wollensky is closing.  Their landlord decided to raise the rent by, in my non-professional opinion, what can only be described as an exorbitant amount.  I didn’t get the exact closing date, but it will be a very sad day.

The martini I did get was good and the bar service fine.  However, considering the imminent future for the staff, it hardly seems fair to judge them at this point.