This elegant drink is very comparable to a classic martini, except that the gin-to-vermouth ratio is reversed. It is essentially a martini glass filled with chilled vermouth, topped up with a dash of gin or vodka to taste.
The more vermouth in a martini, the sweeter, or wetter it is said to be. As such, an upside down martini could be considered the sweetest or wettest version of all. However, it can be made with dry vermouth as well as sweet, so the literal sweetness of this martini remains within your control.
This version is sometimes referred to as ‘a Wet Martini’ but the term ‘upside down’ is more specific to the gin-to-vermouth ratio.
This version of martini was said to be a favourite of cookery icon Julia Child, credited with introducing public America to the wonders of French cuisine.
Fans of vermouth, such as those who frequent the civilised vermuterias from Barcelona to Buenos Aires will likely appreciate this drink. It could even be considered a gateway drug for those venturing into the martini world. It is much more gentle than a classic martini.
More needs to be made of this version.
An upside down martini involves the same ceremony and sense of occasion as a classic martini, but the flavour is much less dry and the alcoholic impact much lessened. If you were ever going to break the two martini rule, this would be one you could do so with.
How to make an upside down martini
As mentioned above, you can use either sweet or dry vermouth for this version, depending on your taste. I would recommending trying the vermouth neat first of all, then working out if you think you would like it in martini form.
Given that the vermouth in this drink is stored in the refrigerator and constitutes the bulk of the recipe, an upside down martini is generally less cold than a classic martini. As such, you may choose to shake this version with ice to cool it down, but this will also water down the drink even further.
You may also choose to serve the drink on the rocks. Perhaps the most efficient and pleasant way to cool it down, however, is to simply place the bottle of vermouth into the freezer around 30-60 minutes in advance of serving.
- A bottle of vermouth – you could use sweet or dry according to preference, but a dry vermouth would be closer to the more astringent experience of a classic martini.
- A bottle of gin or vodka depending on your preference.
- Either a fresh unwaxed lemon, or olives preserved in brine.
- A freezer
- Martini glasses. If you want to do this properly, the glasses should be conical shaped with a size/volume of around 100-130ml / 3.4 – 4.4 US fluid ounces.
- A peeler and a sharp knife if you are going to use lemon
- Toothpicks / cocktail sticks if you are going to use olive
- Optional – ice cubes if you want to shake this cocktail with ice, or serve it on the rocks
- Optional – a cocktail shaker
- At least six hours before you intend to drink, put your bottle of gin/vodka plus the relevant number of glasses into the freezer.
- Put your vermouth into the refrigerator at the same time to make sure it cools down as well. Once a vermouth bottle has been opened it will need to stay in the refrigerator permanently or it will spoil more quickly.
- Remember, you could put the bottle of vermouth into the freezer around 30-60 minutes before serving.
- When it’s time to serve, take the glasses and gin/vodka out of the freezer. They should be nice and frosty.
- If you are serving the drink ‘on the rocks’, add 1-3 ice cubes to the glass.
- If you are serving your martini with lemon, peel some fresh zest and gently twist and squeeze it inside the glass. This should spray a fine mist of lemon oil onto the glass that will make the drink taste beautiful.
- Use a sharp knife to shape the lemon peel and make it neat (depending on the strip of lemon, a rhombus is usually the most efficient shape).
- Pour the vermouth into the glass. The amount you pour will depend on taste and is usually around 80-120ml or 3-4 US fluid ounces, depending on the glass you are using and your personal preferences.
- Top up the glass with the gin or vodka. This should be around 2-5ml or 0.5-3 teaspoons.
- Use the lemon peel to stir the drink, or if you are using olives, skewer one or more olives onto a toothpick or cocktail stick and use this to stir the drink.
- Drop the lemon peel or olives into the glass as a garnish.
- Serve, preferably with some nibbles (I recommend tapas or other forms of Western Mediterranean pre-dinner bites to honour the vermouth heartlands). Maybe follow up with some French cooking in honour of Julia Child: coq au vin or duck a l’orange for example.
It’s obviously not nearly as strong as a classic martini so purists may disapprove, but remember, a martini is always about YOUR preference, not anybody else’s. If you have a few guests to share martinis with and one of them isn’t a fan, offer them one of these instead and they can have the opportunity to take part in the ceremony with the rest of you.
This might also be a good choice before some sort of fine dining dinner, because it won’t impact your taste buds in the same way as a classic martini.
I would also respect anyone who requested this version, because – like the Gibson martini – it would show that they knew about martinis – and that they knew what they liked.