The French Martini helped to kick off the flavored Martini craze of the 1990s. Featuring vodka, pineapple juice and Chambord, the cocktail was first brought to prominence in NYC restaurateur Keith McNally’s Balthazar after the drink made its debut at another one of his establishments during the late-1980s. The cocktail is emblematic of the era’s preference for fruity and sweet drinks, especially those with Martini in the name, or anything appended with a ’Tini suffix (looking at you, Appletini).
The “French” moniker is due to the cocktail including Chambord black raspberry liqueur, which has been produced in France since the 17th century. The Chambord, along with the pineapple juice, adds rich fruit flavor to the drink. When shaken hard with plenty of ice, the pineapple juice—use the freshest you can find—creates a pleasantly creamy mouthfeel and a frothy head.
There are many variations to the French Martini. Some replace the vodka with gin, which offers a botanical twist to the cocktail. Others sub a different liqueur for the Chambord. But the original recipe remains intact for a reason: It’s easy, tastes great and looks good in the glass.
This recipe was created by venerable bartender and distiller Allen Katz, who offers his own small update on the classic by using creme de cassis in lieu of Chambord. This tweak imparts a deeper flavor, as the currants in creme de cassis are a sharper than Chambord’s raspberries. The result is a cocktail that leans a little more spirit-forward and complex, but is still recognizable as the French Martini.
2 ounces vodka
1/4 ounce creme de cassis
1 3/4 ounces pineapple juice
Add the vodka, creme de cassis and pineapple juice into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.