Martini Alternatives

It’s the day before New Year’s eve.  Many people will choose to have champagne or sparkling wine at their celebration, but many people will also choose to start the evening with a sophisticated cocktail like a martini. If you are one of them, we’d like to offer you some alternatives to that classic. The following are all  similar in that they are very spirit forward cocktails, but they offer a range of flavor profiles that are different from the martini.

The Veneto

The Veneto came about because Christa really likes grappa and wanted a cocktail that showcased it. So she created one! She knew she wanted it to be about the spirit, so everything in it – the orange, the cardamom, the lemon  – is there to support and bring forward the floral notes in moscato grappa. She strongly recommends Po’ di Poli Morbida grappa for this drink.

  • veneto-final3 oz grappa
  • 1/2 dry vermouth
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 dash cardamom bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a martini glass and add a lemon twist.


  • Orange blossom and lemon zest, some cardamom and jasmine, very faint malty/yeasty scent.


  • Smooth clean floral flavors (orange blossom and jasmine) at the first, herbal, cardamom, and lemon notes in the middle, then cardamom carries into the finish along with orange and aromatic notes from the bitters. Very smooth to drink with a delightful silky body. 

The Double Tap

The Double Tap came about because Shaun wanted a cocktail to acknowledge his new job. Given that the new job was all about killing zombies, we started with the name (in honor of Zombieland). Given the name, we felt we needed two base spirits. We both quite like pisco and feel it is underutilized, so we started with that. Then we went with white dog whiskey, since we have quite a number of excellent craft distillers here in the Pacific Northwest that are creating some very nice ones. We chose the one from House Spirits in Portland for this. Both base spirits have enough going on to make an interesting drink without relying too much on mixers to add complexity.

  • double-tap-final1 oz white dog whiskey
  • 1 oz pisco
  • 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir with ice, strain, add a lime twist.


  • Malt. Lime.


  • Sweet smoothness of the white dog and pisco. Malt at the front, then comes the richer, more aromatic taste of the pisco. Resin-y plus the expected toast and vanilla notes from the barrel. Moves into a really interesting, savory, toasted popcorn flavor underpinned with a little bit of caramel. The bitters surface on the finish. 

The Gibson

For our final drink we wanted to go with an under-appreciated classic, the Gibson. This is essentially a martini but with a different garnish. Christa made some lovely homemade pickled cocktail onions that are quite delicious. We here at Booze Nerds recommend making your own garnishes at every opportunity, as many of the commercial ones can be so-so. It’s easy, and there are lots of online recipes to try out. Because of the pickled onion, the Gibson has some different brine-y and savory notes that distinguish it from the martini. We chose the No. 3 gin from New Deal for this one, which is deliciously bright and all about the juniper. Another great spirit from Portland. Have we mentioned they also have an awesome craft distilling scene there?

  • gibson-final2 1/2 oz gin
  • 1/2 dry vermouth

Stir with ice, strain, garnish with pickled onions.


  • Nice clean juniper smell. Very slight briny notes from the onion. Get a little bit of aroma from the mustard in the pickle as you drink more and the onions are exposed.


  • Savory and briny to start, with clean, forward juniper. Slight sweetness on the mid-palate from the vermouth. Finishes dry with woody, herbal notes like thyme and sage.

We hope that you find these drinks a nice change of pace. We here at Booze Nerds wish you a safe and festive New Years, and we’ll see you in the new year.

Check out some of our other martini alternatives.

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