Some artists work in paint and clay. Ours prefer Vodka and Gin.

Perry makes Smoky's great place for shakes  

By Michael Muckian
Special the The Capital Times

When Robert “Martini Bob”
Perry loads his cocktail shaker,
it at first appears be done
with careless abandon.In fact, the bar manager at Smoky's Club looks positively disinterested as he shakes the
bright blue cylinder in his right
hand while ringing up a sale
with his left and simultaneously
answering a waitress's question.
But don't let Perry’s appar-
ent nonchalance fool you. After
41 years behind the bar, much
of it devoted to perfecting vari-
ations on the classic libation,
Martini Bob's mixology oper-
ates at a subconscious, almost
instinctual level.
He knows precisely how
much of each element needs to
be blended and exactly how
many times it needs to be
shaken in order for our taste
buds to be stirred.
"Mixing a great martini is an
art more than a science” said
Perry, 62, who's been pouring
perfect martinis at Smoky's
since 1980 and at other Madi-
son restaurants for much
longer than that. "The science
comes in bringing together the
proper amounts of the right in-
The martini in his shaker
this night was the James Bond,
Perry’s own variation on the
classic 007 cocktail, made pop-
ular by lan Fleming's persnick-
ety secret agent, and Smoky's
most popular martini.
A healthy dose of Three
Olives English vodka has been
splashed with a dash of Quin-
tessential English gin — no dry
vermouth, if you please —-and
shaken with cracked ice until
the rhythm feels right in Perry's hand.
A frozen martini glass with a
unique stem configuration Is
set before me and a Spanish
olive hand-stuffed bluecheese is nestled inside. Perry then pours the martini slowly over the olive, filling the
frosted glass to the rim and
slightly beyond, allowing the
crystal-clear concoction's sur-
face tension to hold the drink
in place.Even in Smoky's interior
gloom, the James Bond
shimmers with an inter-
nal radiance, almost resem-
bling a sculpture more than a
The first taste brings waves
of sensation with it. The vodka,
the product of four separate
distillation processes, sweeps
the palate like a crisp winter
wind, waking any dormant
taste buds and frosting them
with its subtle presence. Aro-
matics from the dash of gin
rise in the back of throat and
up through the nasal passages,
stimulating the olfactory senses
to bring additional dimension
to the first swallow. The whole
thing then all but disappears,
leaving residual fingerprints as
a reminder of its power on the
palate over which it just
The sophisticated cocktail's
affect is sublime. I’m suddenly embarrassed that I'm not wear-
ing a tuxedo.

"Bob just has a knack for
making the perfect martini,"
said Jennifer Peters, a Martini
Bob fan who has sampled many
of the 160 martinis on Smoky's
drink menu. "He's just great."
Peters was one of several
fans who encouraged Perry to
start Martini Bob's Martini
Club in 2002. The club, which
now boasts 1,569 members
worldwide, offers the ninth
martini free after the purchase
of eight and keeps members
connected through an online
The club has members
throughout the U.S., as well as
in England, Australia, Chile and
Argentina. Martini fans who
stop in to Smoky’s for dinner
invariably join the club, which
has no entry fee.
Members also share martini
recipes with Perry, who adds
the ones he likes to his growing
list, often naming them after
the recipe holder. Peters and a
friend have their own martini
on the list that Perry christened
the JC Delight, a blend of Sto-
lichnaya strawberry vodka,
Midori melon liqueur and or-
ange juice. Most martanis ring
up at $7.50, a bargain compared to those offered at other Martini Bars.Martinis are always shaken with ice, which chills the contents more effectively than stirring, and are always served in a frosted glass, said Perry, who became Smoky’s bar manager in 2000. Smoky’s has a special freezer behind the bar that can hold up to 30 glasses at one time, each waiting for its own martini. On a Badger football Saturday, that inventory turns over as many as 10 times throughout the night, he said.
Perry, who often samples his
own work as well as that of
bartenders at Fyfe's Comer
Bistro, the Avenue Bar and the
Innkeeper in Waunakee. The
upcoming generation of drink-
ers understands the purity, the
simplicity in the cocktail's con-
struction, he said, and they ap-
preciate a martini well made.
"The martini can be attrac-
tive, colorful and sophisticated
all at the same time. It's a
cocktail that brings out the
best in people," said Peny.
"Manhattans just can't do that
for you."
• • •
Upcoming events: On
Oct. 19, Smoky's will be hosting Three Olives Vodka Night,
featuring a representative from
Three Olives who will discuss
Perry's favorite vodka and lead
tastings of the different flavors
available. The evening will have
a ‘50s-'60s theme, so come
dressed as your favorite char-
On Oct. 24, the restaurant
will host A Tribute to Smoky,
recognizing thecontributions
of restaurant founder Leonard
"Smoky" Schmock, who died
on March 16,2001. The eve-
ning features an appetizer buf-
fet and chance to sample beers
from Esser Brewing Co., Cross
Smoky's Steakhouse is lo-
cated at 3005 University Ave-
nue. Call 233-2120 or go to