The herd mentality that led countless clueless to "rediscover" the martini, and which has resulted in untold thousands of badly made cocktails to be served here over the past several years -- that maddening mindlessness has finally reached its nadir. We point to three unrelated events as proof beyond doubt that the party is over. (And none too soon, we might add.) Item: Late last year a French liquor manufacturer rolled into town with something called Grey Goose vodka and proceeded to host a South Beach search for the best martini -- made with its own liquor, of course. Many witless dining and drinking enterprises participated, lemming-like. (Note to the knuckleheads: Authentic martinis can only be made with gin.) Item: A certain unnamed bar in a certain unnamed hotel, which has won this award four times, recently revealed just how far the mighty have fallen. The drink was ordered "very dry," which the bartender wrongly interpreted to mean no vermouth whatsoever. Needless to say, if it doesn't have at least a touch of vermouth, it isn't a martini. When this fact was brought to his attention, he summarily dumped in a thimbleful of vermouth and promptly ruined it, though he didn't seem to care, or even know what he'd done. Then came the bill: $11. Per drink. Enough said? Item: In December 1998 Miami Herald resident hipster Fred Tasker wrote this sentence, which his editors approved and the newspaper actually printed: "The martini is the latest really in thing among Beautiful People, if you believe the hype." Right you are, daddy-o. Connoisseurs of the world's most elegant cocktail may feel a bit sheepish about having momentarily wandered astray in the counterfeit world of chocolate martinis and fruit martinis and God knows what else. But the truth is you can go home again. In this case that means returning to a proper and confident American steak house along the lines of the Capital Grille, the Palm, Morton's, or Smith & Wollensky. For generations the martini has been held in the highest esteem at such establishments. Settle into a leather banquette, take a deep breath, and relax. Your martini is on its way.


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