By: Julieta Hernandez Photos by: Rachel Benavides
On a fine evening at Bellino Ristorante, to sip is a simple pleasure; for a fan of re-crafting the classics, the newly expanded bar is stirring things up. However, there is one particular libation on the restaurant’s newly constructed bar menu that signifies Bellino’s signature innovation. The Martinez holds everything that tastes so good about European-region ingredients. Found on the new cocktail menu, it’s served with a craft influence and an in-house twist.
“The Martinez is an old recipe—some say it’s the precursor to the martini,” explained Bellino’s head mixologist Juan Manuel. “It’s like a grandfather, and all these other drinks fall under the umbrella; it all started with this one.”
Dating back to the late 1800s, The Martinez holds deep roots in cocktail history and remains a quiet gem in the mixed drink scene. The spirit-forward cocktail is made authentically using Old Tom gin for its milder and more clarified notes. The main spirit combination is gin and sweet vermouth, specifically a red Italian; for this, Manuel uses Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, a traditional vermouth with its own history and role in the classic cocktail era. The bold red, with aromatic layers of rhubarb, wormwood, and a slight hint of vanilla, tastes both sweet and bitter on the tongue harmoniously.
The mixologist then adds maraschino liqueur, which binds the two main spirits together with its saccharine flavor. The mixture is dashed with orange bitters and stirred in a mixing glass, then poured into a chilled martini glass, where the combined spirits have agreed to a clear shade of amber. Finished with a twist of a lemon peel, that is the Martinez. “It’s bitter, it’s sweet, and it’s balanced,” Manuel said.
The cocktail gives off a more whiskey-forward look because of the caramel-colored end result. One might even be surprised to find the simplicity of Old Tom gin creates the perfect canvas for the shining flavors of red vermouth and maraschino. In the end, it makes the gin feel as rounded and spiced as a bourbon.
“This is one of those drinks that was at the forefront for awhile,” Manuel said. “At some point, it broke off into a lot of drinks; people kind of just tried new things. The Martini rose as a further-translated spin off the Martinez, which also bears similarities to the Manhattan.” The humble recipe, unique and timeless, upheld its enigmatic nature, making it a delicate cocktail to be re-mixed again under the influences of 21st-century craft mixologists.
The style of cocktails at Bellino’s celebrates tradition, both perfecting the classics and gently modernizing them with in-house bitters, newer spirits, and modern mixology methods. “When we built up the bar, I kind of had that in mind. This is our specialty: traditional, classic cocktails,” Manuel said. “It’s one of those things; if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
3815 S Alameda St. | @bellinoristorantecc