Order a martini and you may be asked: gin or vodka? Shaken or stirred? Wet or dry? Olives or a twist? Perhaps it’s the ritual of hospitality—which is the unspoken ingredient in every martini—that makes it a sacred cow of cocktail culture. Treat the martini with respect and it will respect you.

There’s an efficient beauty to the ol’ standards of martini personalization, but it’s a lot like trying to riff within the confines of classical music: rigid. The martini is an American invention, is it not? Does making one have to feel like playing chamber music? Time passes. The youth revolt (or forget). And thanks to a growing number of bartenders who pay less reverence to the gray-flannel-suit era that the martini has been amber-sealed within, this era’s martinis are finally starting to play out like those other key American inventions: jazz and punk rock.

Few things cut the brininess of beautiful bivalves quite like the smooth, ice-cold combination of gin and vermouth. At Little’s, the addition of grapefruit bitters and chamomile licorice stock adds a complex floral, anisey layer and imparts a beautiful golden hue to the drink. —O.M.

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