Down and dirty: Ruby Fontaine on consumer demand for the Vodka Martini

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Passionate Martini purists may proclaim that a ‘real’ Martini is made with gin – but frankly, my dear, the customers of Golden Age-inspired bar Fontaine’s don’t give a damn.

The Stoke Newington venue launched a Martini menu this autumn offering both Vodka and Gin Martinis. Given the juniper spirit’s popularity, Fontaine’s owner Ruby Fontaine expected Gin Martinis to shift with ease. She was surprised when Vodka Martinis consistently outsold them.

Ruby Fontaine

‘People are asking for Vodka Martinis, particularly very dirty – not clean, classic Vodka Martinis. We’re talking drinks that are briny, almost murky,’ she said.

This trend was unexpected, not only because of the current gin boom, but also, Fontaine remarked, because it goes against bartenders’ tastes.

‘When you’re in the bar industry there are certain taboos, things we put our nose up to and go “why on earth would you?”. The Dirty Vodka Martini is one of those.

‘The vodkas we have on the bar are my favourites to work with in Martinis because they either have a buttery, creamy texture and flavour to them, or they have really clean, crisp flavours. But unless you’re drinking it in a simple Martini, maybe with a discarded twist, you’re not going to pick up those subtle flavours.’

For Fontaine, the Martini menu has been a lesson in crafting a classic menu that caters to different preferences.

‘I’m not sure what it is with the Vodka Martini, but to each their own. People are drinking what they want to drink.

‘I create my cocktail menus to make sure there’s something for everybody. I think this is the best menu I’ve put on, and it accommodates many palates.’

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