Mixing & Mingling with Martinis, Manhattans & Margaritas

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The picturesque exterior of Seaglass at the The exterior of Seaglass at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort.

The cocktail combinations on the menu at this northern Florida beach resort’s lobby bar let guests choose their own adventure.

Once inside the posh lobby bar Seaglass at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort on Amelia Island, Florida, you notice several things. The color palette is evocative of the sand and coral you’ll encounter on an early morning walk, the sprawling pool deck and Atlantic Ocean beyond are oh so beckoning, and the drinks menu is not what you typically find at a beachfront vacation spot. Seaglass offers categorically compiled craft cocktails, including sections dedicated to classic and modern variations of three eternally popular libations: the Martini, Manhattan and Margarita. Director of food and beverage Omar Vega walks us through the offerings on each, including tips for discovering which ingredient combinations readily mingle, and inspired recipes.

Martinis

The Stirred and Shaken section of Seaglass’s cocktail menu appeals to everyone from gin purists to fans of vodka libations, with choices like a lavender lemon drop-inspired cocktail and a tart and tangy Cosmopolitan. “A classic gin Martini would appeal to all who like floral notes, and now there are an array of mixed Martinis that have many elements added to them (juices, fruit-flavored spirits, etc.),” says Vega. “These tend to appeal to the person wanting a mellow drink with sweetness.” He goes on to point out that London Dry Gin is not as herbal as more modern styles like Hendrick’s, which tend to be mellower and less juniper-forward. Vega is very conservative when it comes to adding vermouth to a traditional Martini, though, and uses it more as a coating agent than a true ingredient. “I add no more than half an ounce of vermouth to the ice prior to adding gin, then shake this into the ice, pour it out and add gin to be shaken.”

Botanical Martini cocktail recipe - Seaglass at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

Botanical Martini

Recipe courtesy of Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, Amelia Island, Florida

This Martini variant gets herbal tones from the Lillet, and a dose of freshness and florality from cucumber- and-rose-tinged Hendrick’s. If you wish, you can garnish it with a cucumber slice instead of the lemon twist.

  • 2 oz. Hendrick’s Gin
  • 1 oz. Lillet Blanc Aperitif
  • Fresh lemon twist, for garnish

Add the gin and Lillet to a cocktail glass, add ice, and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the lemon twist.

Manhattans

Even at a beach bar with an airy vibe and a great view of the shimmering water beyond, Manhattans are super popular. “Manhattans, I believe, attract the person that likes bolder flavor notes and wants a stronger drink,” says Vega. And he’s all for experimenting with the red vermouth used in the classic cocktail, noting that there are so many brands out there that will offer different flavor profiles and nudge out various aromas and tastes from the base spirit. “Carpano Antica is a sweet vermouth that pairs well with a nice Bourbon and a dash of bitters,” he explains. “Dolin Rouge is a lighter vermouth that will definitely not overpower.” He stirs Dolin Rouge with Woodford Reserve Bourbon for the Craft Manhattan, and Carpano Antica both with Bulleit Rye for the Rye Manhattan, and with Maker’s 46 Bourbon for the 46 Manhattan.

Royal Manhattan cocktail recipe - Seaglass at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

Royal Manhattan

Recipe courtesy of Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, Amelia Island, Florida

While many Canadian whiskies are on the lighter side, Crown Royal Black has deeper, richer notes that meld well with Martini & Rossi--a bar staple. A Luxardo cherry is a great garnish option, but you could also use an orange twist.

  • 2 oz. Crown Royal Black Canadian Whisky
  • 1 oz. Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Luxardo Cherry, for garnish

Add whisky, vermouth and bitters to a cocktail glass, add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the cherry.

Margaritas

Just outside Seaglass on the pool deck, the Rum + Tequila Experience offers high-end Tequilas for mixing or sipping. But Seaglass also mixes up great Margaritas on the With or Without Salt section of the list. “Use fresh ingredients when making Margaritas--make your own sour mix versus using store bought,” advises Vega. “Fresh juices will bring out a better flavor and not be as sugary.” The Elevated Margarita uses Avión Tequila, which boasts notes of pineapple, citrus and vanilla; the Third Generation Margarita uses Tres Generaciones Reposado Tequila; and the Añejo on the Rocks shakes up Patrón Añejo. In any Margarita, orange liqueur is a must--but how do you know when to use which brand? “Cointreau will make the Margarita more delicate than Grand Marnier, so if you like sweeter and stronger go with Grand Marnier,” notes Vega. “If you like balanced and highlighted notes of orange, go with Cointreau.”

Smoky Margarita cocktail recipe - Seaglass at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

Smoky Margarita

Recipe courtesy of Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, Amelia Island, Florida

This unexpected twist on the Margarita swaps out tequila for mezcal, lending a smoky depth that’s balanced by two kinds of citrus--lemon and lime. Serving it in a glass rimmed with coarse salt (or gusano salt) will up the savory notes even more.

  • 1 ½ oz. Vida Mezcal
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • 1 oz. agave nectar
  • ¾ oz. Grand Marnier
  • Lime wheel, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until well chilled. Strain it into a rocks glass (with or without salt) over fresh ice, and garnish with the lime wheel.

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,  www.kellymagyarics.com, or on  Twitter  and  Instagram  @kmagyarics.