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Martini Monkey, San Jose, CA (bar)

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Name:Martini Monkey
Street:Terminal C, 1661 Airport Blvd. #3B
City:San Jose

Martini Monkey is possibly the most unlikely neo-tiki bar you will find. Located in the food court in the old terminal of San Jose International Airport, it is a recently redesigned lounge that features interior design by the same firm responsible for Backflip, Red Room, and Sno-Drift in San Francisco. It's very modern and sleek. But, there is a spectacular 20 foot mural behind the bar of Mark Ryden's "Exotica". The owners have the rights to reproduce this image in all future ventures as well.

The other wonderful part of Martini Monkey is the drink menu, full of classic cocktails, perfectly prepared. The head bartender, Jay, is a nice guy who is an absolute cocktailian. He goes to cocktail conventions twice a year to hone his craft and learn new recipes. You'll find a stellar mojito, hemingway daquiri, and a mai tai that (while it does have a small splash of pineapple) otherwise has all of the proper ingredients and is damn tasty.

If you find yourself flying in or out of San Jose Airport (say, if you're coming up for the SF Tiki Crawl), it's a must visit. Heck, you should check it out if you're anywhere near the South Bay.

How long has this mural been there? I missed this the last time I was in SJ Airport sometime last year.


About two years. They brought a copy of "Exotica" to a mural artist in Santa Cruz, who repainted it in grand scale. Apparently, the one behind the bar is his third effort as he kept messing up the proportions, like making the girls head way to big and such.

Also, the owners very nearly didn't get the permit from the airport officials to put it up because the woman is wearing a bikini top that was deemed "too risque". They said that children can see into the bar from the food court. But the fact the children are not ALLOWED in the bar won the case. Plus, I mean, gimme a break. Like "Exotica" is worse than anything on TV anymore.

Wow, you were not kidding. I have lived in the Bay Area all my life, and have flown in and out of San Jose International several times, but I never knew the Martini Monkey was there. When I picked my wife up last week at the airport, I made a point of actually going inside Terminal C to check it out. I must warn you, I am kind of a cocktail geek of sorts, so I'm a bit picky when it comes to drinks.

I was very pleasantly surprised by my experience!! To kind of test Jay (who was also there the night I went in), I ordered a very non-tiki drink (a classic Manhattan) to start off with, and he is one of the ONLY bartenders to actually use bitters in the drink. This is the original Manhattan recipe, and he nailed it. He even used the correct amount of Vermouth. Needless to say, I was pretty impressed!!

When my wife finally arrived, we got a little more tropical and ordered a Hemingway Daiquiri and a Caipirinha, which is a Brazilian drink that not many places in the Bay Area make. It's a kind of tart, in-your-face cocktail that needs to be balanced to taste right. WOW!! Very nice indeed. I appreciate the fact that they actually try and balance their cocktails, and that Jay was using fresh lemon and lime juices. All the drinks and the service was great, and I was actually able to talk with him about ingredients, different types of alcohol, and have a real conversation. Most bartenders say "um, I don't know." It was pretty cool :)

Thanks for the info about the Martini Monkey...I can't believe I've always overlooked it. They need to advertise or something. I didn't ask Jay when I was in there, so please post if you know of any other Martini Monkey locations. Do they have any others OUTSIDE of the airport?? Please let me know. Oh and the mural...WAY COOL!!

Thanks again for the tip!!

P.S..I am new to this forum here...I found it doing a search on google. What and where is the Tiki Crawl in the Bay Area, and can anyone participate? Thanks!!!!!


The owners are thinking about opening a new location sometime in 2004. May not have the same theme.

Welcome to Tiki Central! The San Francisco Bay Area Tiki Crawl 2004 is April 1-4. Watch TC for more information!

The Best of Silicon Valley 2001 Awards
Best Escape From the San Jose Airport in The San Jose Airport

Martini Monkey Cocktail Lounge
Terminal C, 1661 Airport Blvd. #3B, San Jose

As one jostles through Terminal C, bowels in an uproar after receiving bad information from the airlines, stressed at the prospect of yet another Marquis de Sade sojourn through the unfriendly skies of bad air, bad food, and fear of death, take refuge for a moment in the Martini Monkey Cocktail Lounge, located just outside the food court in a dimly lit green shadow. The mural behind the bar features world-class cheesy pulchritude in the form of a pagan jungle woman wearing a leopard-skin bikini, posing before angry volcanoes and frowning tiki gods. And yes, that is a green plastic monkey in that Cuba Libre. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile.
EC - Silicon Valley Magazine

just wanted to thank martiki for mentioning this hidden oasis in the old terminal at sj airport. we flew to houston out of this terminal at 6 am unfortunately...hence the monkey was closed. (no mai tais in the morning, damn them!) :)
yet, luck shone down on us because our return flight from the superbowl arrived at 8pm, prime time for a beverage (especially after a long stinky flight)

i took a few pictures of the place on my crappy throw away camera, but it will be awhile till that roll is developed. but i do want to mention that we met jeff and jay and they were very friendly and made a great mai tai. just the fact that they carried orgeat overjoyed me. jay recalled the great martiki visiting and was familiar with the tiki crawl being planned for this year. he wanted me to relay the message that he would love to see the tiki centralites on the crawl, just to be sure to call ahead so they can arrange a private bar party (ooooh...intriguing!)

all i can say is it really topped off our awesome trip, and frankly, it gave me something to look forward to in coming back home!


Chongolia and I were just in the MM. Jay was working his magic again. He is a super friendly dude and knows his drinks. He was telling us mixed drinks are his hobby and that he attends a drink mixin competition in Vegas. He has also put together a huge grog log that contains quite a few drinks he invented. My Mojito was ever so tasty!
Whenever we have biz down at the SJ airport, we try and get over to Hukilau which is about ten minutes away from the airport. They have good grinds, friendly folks and tasty drinks too.

-- I believe that our Heavenly Father invented the monkey because he was disappointed in man."
... Mark Twain

Come explore http://www.lost-isle.com

[ Edited by: Chongolio on 2004-02-12 19:48 ]

I'm back! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!


and as i promised, and i know everyone has been eagerly awaiting this....the pictures of martini monkey. wowiezowie!

sorry about the grainy photo...crummy throw away camera...

these two pictures are of the airbrushed mural that is behind the bar. there is a tiki hiding in it, but i somehow managed to get one of the lights to just so block it. of course, it was the throwaway camera's fault mind you.


[ Edited by: tikicleen 2009-05-07 12:18 ]

San Jo!

That's my home town. You go little O.C. wannabe.. you can do it! (talking to San Jose here)

Will have ot fly out of there next time I go somewhere. Seriously, when the heck am I goign somewhere? Invites... anyone?


Martinis and monkeys!?!? My favorite things! Somewhere up there with Flea market shopping, listening to records, sex, looking at myself in the mirror, listening to cats purr, and the smell of new socks. OOPS--too much information!!!!! :)


Looks and sounds like the perfect place to lubricate my parched throat after a day of sleuthing at San Jose's Egyptian Museum.

Stopped by the Martini Monkey last night...most of SJ was crowded or closed...Jay was there, as well as the owner Carlos.

1930s music mixed with Louie Prima set the perfect atmosphere, but it was all about the drinks.

The cocktails here are 'probly the best I've ever had. The attentiveness to details in each drink was fantastic. Jay has a signature drink called "The Aviator" which he created for a magazine piece...sort of a tightrope walk of citrus, cassis and juniper, served Martini style.

It's worth the trip there.

My wife and I are moving back to Saratoga at the end of this summer. Is it true that they opened another Martini Monkey Cocktail Lounge outside of the airport? Last time she was in the Bay Area on business, she was pretty sure someone had said that they opened one in Mountain View or Sunnyvale? Does anyone on these boards a little more "in the know" have any updated information on this?

As far as I know, the only Martini Monkey is in the airport.

Humuhumu (resident expert on South Bay tiki locales), may know a bit more.

[ Edited by: Coco Loco 2006-08-25 00:02 ]

The Martini Monkey is still doing fine! Just paid a visit and had a very good MaiTai. Although Jay wasn't there the cocktail was still awesome. The mural on the back wall is really fantastic, it's just a bit of shame the rest of the decor doesn't quite live up to the grandeur of the mural. Definately worth the visit!

I just got home from Martini Monkey myself...Had a sidecar and a Cuba Libre...top notch stuff. Jay usually works nights, but as the Tiki Crowd visits more frequently, the staff is really getting better at the more exotic drinks (as they are orderedmore often now)

I dig the new Tunnel onto Hwy 17...

They are soon going to start having theme party nights for locals...should be a blast.

Was in there last week. Jay wasn't there that night either. We've missed him the last 3 or 4 times. We were told that he has been having to do a lot of the behind-the-scenes, back-of-the-house duties lately which has taken up a lot of his time. And he's supposedly working on his own thing outside of the Monkey, but still within the world of bars and cocktails. Hmmm...sounds pretty darn cool to us!!!! And I guess he is considering training for a fight again. The other bartender was telling us he does (or used to do) this full-contact fighting, mixed martial arts type stuff in his spare time. Who knew? Crazy!

P.S. This site is a great resource for tiki and cocktails. Glad I found it. Thanks for creating it!

[ Edited by: maitais4christ 2006-10-20 18:42 ]


My guy lives in Santa Clara, very nearby. I had read about this place online somewhere, but never noticed where it was located. Flying out of San Jose, my flight was cancelled, and the airline got me another on a different airline, which took me to the 60s-modern terminal where, to my surprise, I ran into Martini Monkey!

My guy'n I are both cocktail fans, I had a few hours to wait, and he was happy to hang out, so we hit this place and had a few drinks. A young lady was tending, and she followed the house recipes which were detailed in a book on the back bar (which she kindly let us browse). I was impressed first by the bitters - Angostura plus cinnamon, orange, lemon, Peychaud's, etc. About six different kinds or so. I know I had a Sazerac, in which they use Pernod, and it was my first - no other will ever beat it. That is, unless they switch to Lucid... My guy bought some (I had previously bought Absente) and I was impressed. Prepare it right and it's something special - I'll bet it adds more to the Sazerac. They had Old Overholt, Peychaud's, everything they needed to do it right! Now, if they pick up some (now locally available) Creme de Violette, next time I'll push aside my usual aversion to Gin... Order an Aviation Cocktail, stare into that cloudy blue sky in my glass, and image I'm a barely post-Prohibition traveler, about to enjoy a drink before taking that most elegant and sophisticated mode of transportation.

Ican't remember what else we had, because I had three drinks and was quite tipsy by the end... and for at least half my flight! Hats off to this place, it's a little jewel in the dreary world of airport amenities. Nicely done, Martini Monkey! He'n I may go back when I fly down this time... Of course, we're also hitting Vegas, and TVs is right across from our hotel, so...


Anyone know the latest on the Martini Monkey in the San Jose Airport? I found them listed with this phone number, but it doesn't work: (408) 925-9376. Are they past the security area, or can we non-traveling Tiki drink fans sneak in for some drinks?


Sadly, it is now past security. And none of my flights take that terminal any more. Maybe when the airport's new sections get finished, they'll connect 'em all together. If/when I find out for certain, I'll post here.

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