You don’t have to like gin and vermouth to enjoy a martini in the ‘90s. You don’t even have to like olives. You do need a designated driver.
* Lola: Martinis are what Lola is known for, and its 52-martini menu is a standard to which all others are held. Served in a 10-ounce glass that looks like something out of “Alice in Wonderland,” the favorite here is the Flaming Colossus, with cranberry juice, Cointreau and lime juice, served with either gin or vodka. Debuting just in time for Valentine’s Day is the Take Another Piece of My Heart, a rich, ruby-red cinnamon-flavored martini. Lola, 945 N. Fairfax, (213) 736-5652. Martinis start at $7.50.
* Bar Marmont: Feel like a foreign correspondent in a faraway land at the exotic bar at the famed Chateau Marmont. It’s not so much the variety here as the manner in which the little darlings are served. All martinis are shaken, never stirred, and if you order one straight up, you get just a splash in a classic martini glass. The main portion is served in a side car on ice. There’s also fruit-infused vodka, available in pineapple, blueberry, raspberry, and peach. Bar Marmont, 8171 Sunset Blvd., (213) 650-0575. Martinis start at $8.
* Il Fornaio: The new 20-martini menu has “new generation” innovations, such as the Cajun, spiced up with a jalapen~o pepper, and the Almond, which comes with an almond-stuffed olive. There’s room on the menu for classics, too, like the Gibson and the James Bond Martini, shaken not stirred. But the real deal is for olive lovers. Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. beginning Feb. 26, Il Fornaio will host an “Olive and Martini Evening” offering complimentary imported olives from Italy, Greece and France. From Abruzzo, Italy, sample the olive nere dolci, seasoned with oregano, chili flakes and olive, and Puglia, Italy’s Bella di Cerignola olives, large, green and sweet with a citrus marinade. Il Fornaio, 301 N. Beverly Drive (Dayton Way), Beverly Hills, (310) 550-8330, and four other Southern California locations. Martinis start at $5.50.
* Daily Grill: With eight locations, the Daily Grill has one of Southern California’s most accessible and affordable selections of martinis. The choices range from the L.A. Skyy Line (Skyy vodka, fresh lemonade, with a sugar rim) to the Daily Grill Special (Stoli Limonnaya, Pelligrino Bitters, Cointreau, lemon and lime juice), with 15 other varieties for under $6. Yet its most popular martini is the Daily Grill’s simplest: the classic Bombay Sapphire. Choose your own olives, from Spanish, garlic-stuffed, jalapen~o-stuffed or tomolives. The Daily Grill, 11677 San Vicente Blvd. at Barrington, (310) 442-0044, and seven other locations.
* Pinot Hollywood: Adjacent to the Sunset Gower Studios, the Martini Bar at Pinot Hollywood plays host to many a cigar-toting player. To play the part, try the Absolute Angeline Martini (Absolut vodka with a little Frangelico and Cocoa Garnish) or the Riddler (Stolichnaya vodka with a splash of Midori Melon liquor and a subtle green color). There’s a J.R.S. martini with Luksosowa potato vodka with a marinated fingerling potato garnish, named for Pinot owner Joachim Bernard Splichal’s flair for all things potato. For a high-powered midday meal, try the Two Martini Lunch ($6), served in a huge lunch bucket glass. Pinot Hollywood, 1448 N. Gower, on the corner of Sunset and Gower, (213) 461-8800. Martinis start at $5.
* The Four Seasons, Beverly Hills: The martinis at the Windows Lounge are so good they’re becoming as legendary as their Hollywood-inspired names. The Garbo is sophisticated, cool and blue with Stolichnaya vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin and a sparkle of blue curacao. The Deitrich is made with Absolut vodka, Cointreau and a splash of cranberry juice. It’s pink, of course. Feeling wild? How about a hot, explosive Hayworth, with Absolut Pepper, Stolichnaya Petrowaka vodka and a drop of dry vermouth? After a couple of these, you’ll swear the monkey on the wall is staring at you. Windows Lounge, Four Seasons Hotel, 300 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 273-2222. All martinis $10.
* Ritz Carlton Huntington Hotel: By now, everyone is a member of a coffee club. So why not a martini club? Choose from the Scotland Yard (Bombay gin and a splash of scotch with a lemon twist), the Iceberg (Beefeater with a touch of Creme de Menthe), the Bootlegger (Bombay gin, Southern Comfort with a twist of lemon) and 21 other varieties. After you’ve finished 23 (ideally not all in the same sitting) you will get a free Ritz Carlton Martini Club glass. The Ritz Carlton Huntington, 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena, (818) 568-3900. All martinis $7. With membership $6.50. Club is at this location only.