RE: Your Favorite Martini Inspired Drink
I've sung the praises of Vya on this site before. The sweet and the dry are both worth seeking out but are pricey and you might have to special order them. Easier to find are the Boissiere and Noilly Prat (especially the latter) and these are good enough to enjoy on their own as an apertif (Gallo?!) or as part of a very fine martini. Lately though, I've found Lillet to be my favorite match in a Beefeater martini. Four to one ratio, lemon twist. Crisp, complex, powerful.
Never understood mixing olives with a good martini, much less dumping in the brine for a "dirty" one. I find even one olive muddies the taste but it could be that most bars use crappy olives to begin with.
One more thing, ordering a "very dry" Grey Goose martini before dinner (it's usually the vodka people) means the bartender is going to pour you a chilled double shot of odorless, virtually tasteless alcohol. Now, that's great if you're 21, on spring break, knocking back cheap tequila, puking on your Pumas... It's less great if you're 35 and supposedly priming your palate for a nice meal. Good luck, pal, you've just employed the scorched earth policy on your taste buds.