Martinis -- The Experts Make Martinis Memorable
Sierra Lodestar 12/27/11

Foothill Flavors 1018 words

In Search of the Perfect Martini

By Antoinette May Herndon

Some bartenders have a knack for turning junipers berries into pure silk. Such persons are sooooo appreciated these cold winter nights. Blame it on the weather, the late humorist Robert Benchley did. (“Why don’t you slip out of those wet clothes and into a dry martini.”)

The classic recipe (gin with an eye drop of dry vermouth stirred over ice and garnished with an olive, onion or twist of lemon) is only part of it. The rest has something to do with the clink of a real martini glass, that classic triangle atop a stall stem. Such a glass makes even big, cumbersome hands look graceful.

Granted, the martini is the ultimate designer drink. But designers vary, don't they? Some bartenders are simply Dior, others more like Wal-Mart.

Mike Ferrell at Mokelumne Hill’s Leger bar is a good example of the former. He favors Bombay Sapphire gin or Tanqueray with a quarter ounce of dry vermouth and a two-olive garnish.

Martinis concocted by Mike and his colleague, Sean Canty, have become so popular that they’ve inspired a weekly Thursday night gathering. Martini Night isn’t just a Mok thing, patrons come from as far away as Murphys and Sutter Creek. Martini Night libations are $4; as opposed to six on regular nights.

There’s always bar food available at the Leger, often enticing specials; but my ongoing favorite remains fish and chips ($9.95) They are always fresh, tender and hand- dipped.

NATIONAL HOTEL—Twas the sad tale of floating Flo that hooked me. A ghost chaser from way back, I determined to check it out the bar scene at Jamestown’s National.

More than 100 years ago, Flo, 19 and pretty, arrived at the hotel with a story to tell. The New York heiress had met Henry, a handsome young lawyer, while traveling by train to San Francisco.

It was love at first sight, Flo confided. Henry proposed marriage, but knowing Flo's relatives would be outraged, the couple couple planned to meet six weeks later in

Jamestown where Henry was to travel on business.

They kept their rendezvous at the National—separate rooms, of course. A wedding was planned, only days away. A local dressmaker sewed a lace-trimmed wedding gown. On Christmas morning Henry presented Flo with a diamond ring.

The day after Christmas Flo sat waiting in the dining room for Henry to come down when a shot rang out. It appears that a drunkard stumbled into the doorway and shot Henry as he descended the stairs. Flo found lying at the bottom in a pool of blood.

The hotel staff heard uncontrollable sobs throughout that day and night, and the next night and the one after that. On New Year’s Eve they heard nothing. Alarmed, the manager entered Flo’s room to find her seated by an open window dressed in her wedding gown. She was dead.

“Heart failure,” the doctor diagnosed, but those who’d come know Flo thought otherwise. Her heart had not failed--it had broken.

That night revelers outside the hotel were startled by a “woman in white” floating at an upstairs window.

There are those who believe that Flo still floats—mainly through the National bar.

Brian Metcalfe, the National bartender, casts his lot with spirits of another kind. His specialty is the pom -tini. Think: Absolut vodka, triple sec, pomegranate juice with a splash of lime, $8. Easy to see why the drink's popular, but I prefer Brian’s “classic” martini 7. It really is a classic--as good as it gets.

Bar food is wonderful at the National—as is all their food. The restaurant has won many awards. Try the artichoke and prosciutto sauté at $7 or the steamed clams at $12.

MEL & FAY’S DINER—is gearing up for Monday night football. The bartender, Kylie Winley, (who really knows her way around a martini) is moving that luscious jungle of greens and exotic toppings known at the salad bar into the bar itself. You won’t miss a moment of action.

Charles and I love Mel & Fay’s and go there often for the pub food. My favorite dish is the Blue New York

steak at $13.95, but you can’t beat the Hamburger Steak Dinner either. ($8.99.) Mel & Fay’s is a restaurant that delivers time after time.

Oh, yes, Kyle’s fabulous martini, chilled to perfection, garnished with a curl of lem on, is $5. TERESA'S-- Steve Hoover is a deft mixologist with a friendly patter and a flair for invention. Steve earned a place in my heart early on with his creation, the Dirty Martini.

Though a classicist when it comes to martinis, I was curious, then delighted by his dark variation.

Steve's martini contains little or no vermouth (only if the customer requests it), the gin (ideally Tanqueray), two olives and a liberal splash of olive juice.

Guests at Teresa's may enjoy the restaurant's delicious minestrone soup at the bar or a salad. Pizza is also available.

MURPHYS HOTEL—the neon sign, a bright neon triangle anchored by a green olive, says it all. Now, I’m not going to talk a lot about the bar at Murphys because I just did about a month ago.

Suffice it to say the place oozes history and atmoshere. Home-made Pub Grub is available in an atmosphere straight out of the 1800s. A fire burns in the old fashioned pot bellied stove while patrons gather at the 30 foot long wooden bar made of one whole plank that has been in place since 1856!

VITALS: Leger Hotel, 8304 Main St., Mokelumne Hill; phone: 286-1401, open Thursday through Monday.

National Hotel, 18183 Main Street, Jamestown. Phone: 984-3446. Open nightly.

Mel & Faye’s Diner, 31 State Hwy. 49/88, Jackson. Phone: 223-0853. Open seven days a week, 6 a.m. till 11 p.m.

Teresa's, 1235 Jackson Circle Rd., Jackson. Phone: 223-1786

Murphys Hotel, 457 Main St., Murphys. Phone: 728-3444. Open seven days a week including all major holidays (New Year’s is fun there, we’ve tried it).

Credit cards accepted at all.


Steve Hoover has a secret weapon, the dirty martini

Some consider the martini an art form

Mike Ferrell is a master mixologist.