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Drinks with The Joneses: Classic Martinis

General Manager Bryer Lees spills the inspiration behind our classic collection

Ah, the martini. Its murky origins have sparked numerous debates, and while we can’t be sure exactly how it came to be, we’re big fans of the satisfying classic cocktail. One theory traces its roots back to Martinez, California during the mid-1800s Gold Rush. Legend has it that a fortunate gold miner searching for Champagne opted for a concoction made with ingredients the bartender had on hand. Thus, “The Martinez Special” made its debut. Some say that the martini was crafted in San Francisco when a miner sought a pick-me-up en route to Martinez. Others maintain that the drink’s namesake lies with Martini & Rossi vermouth, originating in the mid-1800s. 

Regardless of how it was born, there’s no doubt it’s back on trend — although we would argue it never went out of style. While the “three martini lunch” of the 1950s and 1960s might not fly with your boss these days, martinis are in high demand ― and Torontonians are thirstier than ever. We caught up with General Manager Bryer Lees to talk about the classic comeback in honour of Dry Martini January. Read on for a quick Q&A. 

It’s fair to say the martini is having a bit of a renaissance. Do you agree?

Martini madness is right! Cocktail trends tend to come in waves. Ten years ago, Old Fashioneds and Manhattans were super popular, whereas now, we’re seeing a resurgence of late ’90s and early 2000s era cocktails. Drinks like the Cosmopolitan, Aviation, and Lychee Martini are back, bringing with them an interest in all kinds of classic martinis too. 

What do you attribute this to?

Home bars are so evolved now. People know their liquors and have more cocktail knowledge than ever before. This has translated to the restaurant business. Guests are more discerning and particular about what they’re drinking. If they’re going out for dinner or a night on the town, they want something handcrafted and delicious… and we don’t blame them!

When it comes to martinis, there are so many variations of the cocktail, and they are FUN to drink! Not only are they booze-forward, but if you get a twist or spritz of lemon, they can be super refreshing. Traditionally, they are made with gin (which can offer more flavour than a neutral vodka) and are easy to tailor to suit your taste, making them both personal and playful. We’re not surprised everyone’s getting on board (if they weren’t already)!

How did The Joneses’ martini program come about? 

Cocktail hour is big in my family. We love our martinis. When it came to The Joneses, it felt like a natural fit to build a beverage program around classic American cocktails that suit the modernist, retro-inspired atmosphere we’ve created here. Most of our signature and throwback cocktails also offer a healthy dose of Americana. We wanted to build a cocktail list that honoured the classics while also offering something for everyone. 

Let’s talk Dry Martini January. Five classics for $12 all month long — that should help with the winter blues!

Absolutely! Whether you’re killing time before catching the Go Train, making a night of it, or dropping in for a liquid lunch, it’s the perfect excuse to indulge in a martini just the way you like it (or try something new!). For some, martinis can be intimidating. To combat that notion, we’ve curated an approachable menu of five classics to keep things from getting overwhelming and help remove some of the guesswork for those who aren’t quite sure what they like. Ask questions, try a couple of variations, and enjoy. At just $12, you can sip, savour, and explore!

What classics are on offer and why?

  • 50/50: gin or vodka, dolin dry vermouth, orange bitters
    This one’s an outlier as it calls for an equal ratio of gin or vodka to vermouth, making it slightly lower in alcohol. It’s something a little different… definitely something to try!

  • GIBSON: gin or vodka, dolin dry vermouth, pickled onion
    If you know, you know. A little cocktail onion in your martini is a delicious secret.

  • DIRTY: gin or vodka, dolin dry vermouth, olive bitters, olives
    A super popular choice. Those who love it, love it.

  • WET: gin or vodka, dolin dry vermouth, lemon
    ‘Wet’ simply means that there’s a higher percentage of vermouth. A personal favourite.

  • BONE DRY: gin or vodka, a drop of dolin dry vermouth
    Just a drop of vermouth for those who like things on the drier side.

*Dry Martini January classics are made with your choice of house gin or vodka. 

Was there a conscious effort to create synergy with The Joneses’ culinary offerings? What would you say is the ultimate martini pairing?  

Definitely. Our food and drink menus are designed to work together to satisfy cravings while playfully nodding to nostalgia. When it comes to the ultimate martini pairing, without a doubt it’s the Bone Dry Martini (I’d suggest vodka) and Beef Fat Fries. Our fries are savoury and salty, and together with a crisp, cold martini, they make the perfect combo. 

What would you suggest for first-timers looking to dip their toes in the world of martinis? 

If you’re just starting to explore the delicious world of classic martinis, I would recommend a wet martini with a twist, shaken with ice on the side. It’s less booze-forward, and lemon offers more freshness than tart olive brine. I say ice on the side because you can keep it nice and cold and it allows for continued dilution. While you want to drink it chilled, you’ll miss out on some of the subtle nuances if you toss it back. If wet doesn’t turn out to be your thing, try something else and go from there! 

We all know that James Bond likes his martini shaken, not stirred. What’s the difference and why should you specify?

I like a wet martini with a twist, shaken. Some would say it’s blasphemy to shake a martini, but there’s a science behind it! If you shake a martini, it aerates and therefore accentuates the vermouth. Stirring a martini dampens the vermouth and offers a silky mouth feel. There are lots of ways to drink a martini, and it all comes down to personal preference. Some like it dirty, extra dirty, no vermouth, a spritz of vermouth… the list goes on. It’s very personal and bespoke to a person. If you order a martini and you’re NOT asked how you like it, that’s a huge red flag.

What happens when Dry Martini January is over? Can we still get our martini fix?

Our classics will remain on the menu, along with a few other martinis that have taken over TikTok and Instagram lately, like our Lychee and Espresso Martinis. Unlike the original overly sweet Lychee martini of the early ’90s/2000s, our version is made with Empress gin, fresh lychee juice, and egg white. It’s silky and slightly floral with subtle lychee and a beautiful lavender colour. It’s like the Lychee Martini grew up and bought a condo downtown… it’s less of a party girl and more of a sophisticated young woman. 

As for the Espresso Martini, we serve three kinds. Our Cognac Espresso Martini is made with Hennessy and is incredibly smooth. Beware, it’s a little too easy to drink. We also have a Tequila Espresso Martini that offers hints of Mexican coffee given the use of cinnamon, chocolate mole bitters, and orange. And of course the classic. Beyond that, we’re always staying on top of the trends, evolving, getting creative, and introducing new seasonal beverages. Any excuse to flex our cocktail skills!

Drop in and say hi, neighbour! We’re pouring delicious drinks during Dry Martini January, Happy Hour, Off The Record DJ Nights and always. Cheers! 


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