The French Martini Features An Unexpected Tropical Taste

The classic martini cocktail has earned its place in spirits lore, if only for longevity and movie-star status via James Bond's "shaken not stirred" quip. Reportedly invented in the 1800s, per Food52, it's now a grand dame of global bar culture and even has its own namesake imbibing dens: The sleek and sophisticated martini bars popular in hotel lobbies. But are all martinis created equally, especially ones with unexpected tastes?

There's a saying that goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Whether that applies to a martini is a matter of loyalty or taste, especially when spinoffs offer some interesting twists. For example, a saketini replaces the vermouth with Japanese sake for a savory umami flavor, explains SAKEYOI Hong Kong. And then there's the French martini, which apparently arose from the streets of New York City rather than Paris, according to the Martha Stewart website.

A classic martini is one of the least complex drinks, typically containing three ingredients: gin or vodka, vermouth, and olives. It's anything but exotic, yet even devoted cocktail aficionados seem open to the idea of a French martini bursting with a touch of the tropics.

Tropical flavor and a French liqueur

It's unlikely that restauranteur Keith McNally asked permission from the French when popularizing the French martini in his bars throughout the 1980s, per Difford's Guide. It didn't come from France, just as the surprise differentiating ingredient grows nowhere near New York City. Instead, the unexpected tropical taste in the French martini arrives via pineapple plantations in balmy locales.

Like its classic namesake, the French martini contains only three ingredients, notes the Martha Stewart website, but only one anchors both drinks: vodka. The "French" moniker comes, rightfully, from the second ingredient, the French Chambord black raspberry liqueur. And the third is the tangy/sweet pineapple, which jumps in the mix as a juice.

Not much else is unexpected with the French martini, including the V-shaped glass typically holding the cocktail. However, BBC Good Food recommends vigorously shaking the vodka, pineapple juice, and Chambord to get a slight froth, and garnishing with another nod to the tropics: a wedge of pineapple.

Novelist Ernest Hemingway wrote in "A Farewell to Arms" that martinis "make me feel civilized," and author E.B. White called them "the elixir of quietude," according to Spirited. Who knows if the famous American pen-pushers would feel the same way if served their cherished drink with a splash of pineapple and French Chambord. But it's fair to assume they wouldn't turn it away.