Cocktail Recipes, Spirits, and Local Bars

4 Riffs on the Reverse Vodka Martini to Try Now

4 Riffs on the Reverse Vodka Martini to Try Now

A note to Vodka Martini drinkers who allow nary a whiff of vermouth to touch their lips: You’re barely drinking a cocktail, let alone a Martini. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, if you’re in the mood for a less potent drink, why not flip the script?

A Reverse Vodka Martini, in which the ratios of vodka and vermouth are switched, might be the answer you didn’t know you were seeking. A greater proportion of vermouth to spirit was once how folks drank their Martinis, anyway, back before vodka was part of the equation. When vodka did start making its way into Martinis, around the middle of the 20th century, it quickly took after what its gin cousin had become: A nearly all-booze affair.

If you’re looking to stay sharp while you indulge in that well-deserved cocktail hour, try one of these four takes on the Reverse Vodka Martini. Each one is big on flavor and low on proof.

  • Juyoung Kang, the head bartender at The Dorsey in Las Vegas’ Venetian, loves the balance that amontillado sherry brings to cocktails. In this Vodka Martini variation, she uses it along with Chablis and a bit of Grand Marnier to add roundness to a drink that’s bracing but won’t knock you out. “A low-ABV cocktail keeps you happy and buzzed without you getting all tipsy,” says Kang. Moderation never looked so good.

  • As beverage director at The Recess Room in California’s Orange County, Dany Maldonado keeps the jigger busy with this slightly baroque and deeply quaffable riff on the Martini. Featuring Lillet Blanc, curaçao, dry vermouth, chardonnay and Green Chartreuse, it also calls for frozen melon balls. In all its complexity, the drink hits sweet, dry and fruity notes but won’t knock you off your feet.

  • Jeff Jagger, the bar manager at Philadelphia’s Townsend, created this vermouth-forward entry point into the world of the Martini. “It drinks clean and easy on the palate,” says Jagger. “You can have a few while still enjoying responsibly for the rest of the day, all with the benefit of not having to worry as much about the repercussions tomorrow.”

  • In the “call it what it is” category, the Reverse Martini at San Francisco’s Starlight Room pumps up the white vermouth alongside a short pour of Spirit Works vodka, distilled up the road in Sonoma County. Michael Lee, a certified sommelier and the assistant director of food and beverage, calls the Reverse Martini the perfect summer drink. “It will not make you feel sluggish while you dance the night away between the stars and cable cars,” he says.


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