Stirred and Shaken

Morton's is an institution. The high-end chain began in Chicago and spread across the United States and abroad, opening up steak shops as far away as Sydney, Australia. The Beverly Hills Morton's is a sort of Spago lite for the movie biz meat-eater set. The Morton's Web site lists the Wall Street location as closed indefinitely.

The Houston branch (5000 Westheimer, 713-629-1946) is a sort of steak guy's Marfreless -- a place for those in the know rather than the madding crowd. There are large black-and-white photographs of United States presidents in the deserted hall. A rumble of carnivores comes from behind an unmarked door. I enter and turn right into the bar. There, Christopher Fleming is whirling like a dervish, whipping up drinks for the Tuesday-night crowd. I order his signature classic dry "Mortini."

Fleming puts a martini glass in front of me that is cloudy with ice particles. A few degrees lower, and we could be discussing the core of a comet in the Oort Cloud. It is a species of martini perfection: cold, but warming when imbibed; dry as Arctic wind, but moist with the possibilities a good cocktail inspires.

Morton's Mortini:
3 ounces Bombay Sapphire Gin
A touch of olive pickling liquid
A touch of Martini & Rossi Extra Dry white vermouth

Shake the ingredients with ice until the shaker frosts over. Strain into a frozen martini glass. Skewer two large Spanish pimento-stuffed olives on a toothpick, drop them into the glass and serve. One is enough before dinner.


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