5 to Try: Martini Bars in Austin

As far as virile, potent cocktails go, the martini is hard to beat. Its contents are simple: liquor, chilled, gin or vodka with a hint of vermouth or dressed up with a twist or an olive. But to Austin's creative mixologists, the drink can be limiting. Bartenders here are bursting to concoct fresh new flavor combinations that deliver the kick that only chilled liquor can. These are martinis that James Bond would cock an eyebrow at, and not the green-apple-flavored-tinis that already enjoyed their moment of popularity. Behold the new martini.

Updated: November 16, 2009

Shaken, Not Stirred

Brown Bar

201 W Eighth St, Austin, TX 78701

This old-school bar, tucked away in a classic building with historic importance in Austin (LBJ had offices here), has a martini menu so impressive that it should pop the monocles of even the most highbrow cocktail-sipper. Locally made Tito's vodka and house signature jalapeno-stuffed olives make up the Austinite martini. The Brown Bar martini is made with Smirnoff vanilla vodka, Godiva liqueurs, white creme de cacao and an arty swirl of chocolate syrup--yum. Even more awesome is ladies' night (Wednesdays), during which specialty martinis drop to $5.

Trudy's Restaurant & Bar

409 W 30th St, Austin, TX 78705

To some, the Mexican martini is simply a margarita made dirty by adding olives. But Austinites know it is more than that, and that Trudy's is home to a potent one. Tequila, Cointreau, sprite, orange and lime juices are combined and shaken briskly with ice, then the bartender adds several stuffed green olives. The whole shebang is poured into a glass rimmed with salt, and the patron is given the remainder in a silver cocktail shaker. Many people enjoy this without olives, making the martini element only suggested. But the martini kick is there. The bartenders will only serve two of these, no matter how politely a customer asks.

Cedar Door

201 Brazos St, Austin, TX 78701

This place is home to the original Mexican martini--essentially a margarita with green olives--but the house has a secret ingredient or two which seems to be addictive. The drink has been winning awards for 20 years, and the Cedar Door original Mexican martini mix is sold by the bottle in house, online, or at liquor stores around town. So while the secret ingredient (or ingredients) isn't spelled out, it is widely available, and deeply loved.

Side Bar

602 E Seventh St, Austin, TX 78701

This Red River watering hole shows its support of young, creative Austinites in its prices: Most well drinks are around $3.50, and pitchers of Lone Star can be had for under $10. Sophisticated and creative martinis are also available at affordable prices, too. A glance at the chalkboard with daily specials will reveal which infused vodkas are in house. From cucumber to pumpkin pie spice to cranberry, these doctored vodkas can be chilled, mixed and poured into something martini-esque and delicious.

Rio Rita Lounge

1308 E 6TH St, Austin, TX 78702

This lovely, homey bar is a destination for many reasons: great coffee, iced or hot, and $2.50 "mystery beers" that are fun to drink. The bartenders reach into the cooler stuffed with international lagers and ales (most with a way higher alcoholic content than domestics), and present customers with their trophy. Also on a high shelf behind the bar are several glass vats of steeped vodka-- all made in-house, ranging from fruity to herbal. Try the lavender-infused vodka with a splash of ginger ale for a delicious, most unclassic martini that Martha Stewart might drink.