Bar Review: Mastro’s Steakhouse, Costa Mesa

Martini Glass UprightMartini Glass UprightI did a review of Mastro’s in Thousand Oaks a few months ago and recently had the pleasure of visiting their Costa Mesa facility.  One would hope that the martini in Costa Mesa would be as fine as that in Thousand Oaks.

I am pleased to report that it was.  This small Southern California chain of steak houses really does an exceptional job of constructing their Martinis.  As in Thousand Oaks, the martini was well chilled, perfectly mixed, and served in a chilled stem.   As before the shaker was left on the table so the Martini could be ‘topped off’.

Oh and the food and service were, as expected, outstanding.

Bar Review: Barclay Prime, Philadelphia

Martini Glass Upright

Barclay Prime may have one of the best selections of steaks in the US.  Certainly in Philadelphia.  And, of course, they are prepared perfectly.  The ambiance is subdued elegance and the staff is magnificent.  It is definitely worth a visit.

My martinis were very good: the stems were refrigerated, the mix was perfect,  and nicely chilled. The barkeep was professional and not overly chatty.

The first martini I ordered was stirred.   As you know I prefer my shaken, but I never specify that and if the house standard is ‘stirred’ I go with that.  However this time I thought I’d have a bit of fun, so for the second martini I asked the barkeep to shake it.  He didn’t bat an eyelash or say a word and went to work on a shaken martini.

So I had a martini stirred then one shaken, back to back.  An interesting and fun experiment.  The shaken martini was definitely colder, but perhaps also a bit more diluted.  (I did notice that the barkeep used warm ice in chilling the  drink.)  They both tasted the same though the stirred drink started out with the silky smooth mouth feel that seems to be driving reason some prefer the stirred versions.

Overall the Barclay Prime gets one Martini glass.  Both martinis were, indeed, very good, just not quite exceptional.  I think that if their stems were well chilled in the fridge it would put them into the coveted two martini realm.

Shaker Thoughts

Glass shakers vs. Metal shakers?  Which is better?  I think part of the answer depends on whether you store the shaker in the freezer (or fridge).

If you store it in the freezer then the greater thermal mass of the glass shaker will help you chill the martini as you shake it.  The typical metal (aluminum or steel) shaker is pretty light with little thermal mass.  So freezing it would add little chilling the drink when shaken.  Furthermore a ‘warm’ metal shaker will give up very little heat into the martini when shaking.  If you’ve got a metal shaker I’d save the freezer space for more important things, like ice cream.

I use a metal shaker.  I’ve dropped it several times while cleaning and I’d shudder to think what would happen if it were glass.


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Chilled Glass

Frozen or chilled with ice water? As I said before, my perfect martini is ice cold. Anything that warms my martini is evil. OK, that may be a bit of hyperbole, but you get the idea. So when I see my barkeep pull my glass down from the overhead rack, throw some warm ice in it and fill it with tepid room temperature water, I just cringe.

I know that when the bartender pours that shaken ice cold martini into that glass it’s going to start warming up immediately. Why, because the glass is warm, not colder than 32 F and probably not even close to that.

But when the barkeep heads over to the freezer, not the fridge, but the freezer, and pulls out my glass I smile. I know that glass is going to be closer to O F and will keep my drink frigid.

Note to barkeeps, mix the drink first then pull the glass from the freezer. That way it doesn’t start to warm up while you’re mixing the martini.

Olives or Twist

This may be the second most discussed question about Martinis. As noted, my preference is a twist; when I drink Bombay. To me the lemon flavors compliment the herbs of Bombay while the saltiness of the olives seems to overpower the subtleties of the herbal notes.

However, if my barkeep of the moment doesn’t have a herbal noted Gin available, such as Nolet’s or Lavender, then I will ask for olives.  They are a  better contrast to those floral flavors.

Martini Reviews – Ratings

It has always been my intent and desire to include in this blog reviews of the Martinis I have had at various restaurants and bars I visit.   I have already posted my first review and I’m sure many readers are confused with my grading system.  In that review I gave my maximum rating: Two Martinis.  Which I’m sure is causing great consternation, after all what sort of lunatic would offer a maximum of two martins???

But relax friends, there is a method to my apparent madness.   My grading system is pretty simple and, I believe, will cover the basics of what the aficionado really wants to know.  So with great fanfare, here it is:

Martini Glass UprightMartini Glass Upright   Worth a trip just to try the Martini

Martini Glass Upright   Good Martini

Martini Glass Sideways    Ehh, I’m here, I’ll have drink

Martini Glass Upside Down   Order the wine

That’s it, very simple, concise, and fundamentally informative.

Please feel free to add your reviews, comments, and opinions.  You don’t need to follow my rating system but I’d be honored if you do.

Shaken or Stirred, Part Two

A few more thoughts on “Shaken vs. Stirred”…..

The most convincing argument I’ve heard in favor of a stirred martini is the silky mouth feel that I mentioned early.

The shaken drink tends to be aerated, at least at first, which gives it a different mouth feel. I will acknowledge that the feel of a stirred martini is awesome. But just as the aerated mouth feel of the shaken martini fades, so does the silkiness of the stirred. So for 84.5% of the time I’m savoring my martini, the mouth feel of the two mixing methods is identical.

Then it comes down to temperature and the shaken martin is always colder. Checkmate.