Deconstructed Drink: Cafe Trio
Cafe Trio offers fun, funky martinis in a lively patio setting.
Powerful, sophisticated, elegant — all adjectives we hope our friends use when describing us to strangers. These are also words to describe how we feel when we’re holding a martini, that most quintessentially American of all drinks. There is little mystery in the appeal of this libation — even its iconic glassware, with the thin stem blossoming into a conical top, suggests the drinker knows exactly what they’re doing.
Birth of the Martini
There’s a little more mystery to the martini’s history. This classic champion of cocktail culture has a somewhat muddled origin story. Some historians assert that it was dreamed up by a bartender in Martinez, California, in the mid-1800s Gold Rush; others claim it was developed in San Francisco around that time period for a gold miner on his way to Martinez. The Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City presents a strong case for its invention by hotel bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia in 1912. And then there’s Martini & Rossi, an Italian vermouth created in the mid-1800s and a common ingredient in classic martini recipes.
Have It Your Way
For every martini origin theory, there’s at least a dozen recipes. Experts do agree on a few things: a traditional martini contains gin and dry vermouth and is garnished with either green olives or a lemon peel. The earliest martinis had a 1-to-1 gin-to-vermouth ratio; as years have rolled on, the amount of gin has steadily increased.
Today, there are as many variations of the martini as there are martini drinkers. You can order it “dry” — with no vermouth — or “dirty” — with a splash of olive brine. You can substitute vodka. You can order a “perfect martini,” which features both sweet and dry vermouth. If you’re feeling especially suave and spy-like, you can order it “shaken, not stirred” a la 007 (just be prepared for your bartender’s mild scorn — there’s no reason to shake cocktails containing only clear liquids).
More and more, a “martini” is just a name for a drink that is served in the classic stemware. Some purists will grumble at this, and we have to admit that even the guiltiest pleasure of, say, an appletini would be the odd girl out on serious craft cocktail lists. But who says the martini has to be serious all the time?
Take, for example, Cafe Trio’s approach. The neighborhood restaurant and bar, located on the eastern edge of the Country Club Plaza, has had an unconventional martini program since it opened 13 years ago. At the original location at 35th and Broadway, there was an area separate from the dining room called the Starlet Lounge, and there, amid portraits and photos of Hollywood royalty — both from bygone eras and modern times — guests could sip on drinks named after their favorite leading ladies.
Today, you can perch yourself at Cafe Trio’s wraparound bar in its year-round patio and order yourself a Bombshell Martini — what was originally known as “The Marilyn Monroe,” featuring rum, pomegranate liqueur, blood orange-mango liqueur and a splash of cranberry juice — or kick back with a Blackberry Martini (formerly “The Halle Berry”). In the summer months, the partitioned walls go down and Cafe Trio’s patio becomes the best place to watch the day go by.
- Cafe Trio’s Blackberry Martini is as easy to make as it is to drink. The most important ingredient is, of course, the fruit: you’ll need 4-6 ripe blackberries. Muddle those nicely in a cocktail shaker, but don’t pulverize them too much — you don’t want to end up with jam!
- Pearl Vodka makes nearly 20 flavored vodkas, but the “plum” remains one of the brand’s top-selling. Sweet, tart and tasty, this flavored vodka is several cuts above what you got used to in college, and it makes the perfect addition to summery cocktails. Add 2 1/2 ounces to your muddled blackberries.
- A spoonful of sugar goes a long way, and this cocktail calls for about that much. Many cocktails call for simple syrup — a common bar ingredient made by boiling sugar in water until it dissolves. The result is a honey-like liquid perfect for mixing into drinks. You’ll add a half-ounce to your blackberries and vodka.
- The martini glass might be older than the martini recipe itself. It was designed so that those wishing to imbibe with a cold cocktail wouldn’t have to warm the drink by grasping it around the body of the glass — hence the long stem. After you add ice to your cocktail shaker, give it a few hard shakes and strain it out into one of these sleek receptacles. Pro tip: If you like your drinks extra icy, keep your glasses frozen until you’re ready for them.
- A little Champagne never hurt anybody, right? Top off your Blackberry Martini with a splash of bubbles for some extra effervescence.
Cafe Trio, 4558 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 756-3227, cafetriokc.com