One of the cool things about the cocktail renaissance is that inspiration comes from pretty much anywhere. And while there are always a few mixologists, enthusiasts and bartenders with “attitude”, cocktails tend to live in a welcoming, open and happy place. After all, it is just fun with booze and friends. Why mess with it? If somethings sounds good, give it a try.
And we bring this up because rather than try and hide it, we will ‘fess up and admit this cocktail comes directly from Martha Stewart (or at least her magazine). Martha probably doesn’t rate very cool in urban cocktail circles, but we are in the
sticks country out here and will take whatever inspiration we can get ;-). To be fair, the upside-down martini has been around for quite a while. Basically a martini that is 3-1 vermouth-to-gin vs. 3-1 gin to vermouth, the upside-down martini is an attempt to lighten what is a very boozy, but excellent, drink. But even with a good dry vermouth like Dolin, the upside-down martini can sometimes be a bit cloying and lack character. However, Martha (or her drinks editor) adapted the traditional recipe to include white vinho verde, rather than dry vermouth, and suddenly you get a very good summer cocktail.
So what is vinho verde? Vinho verde is light, young Portugese wine that translates into “green wine”. And that is a very good description. Vino verde is usually less than one year old, overtly tart with citrus notes, slightly fizzy, low-alcohol (usually 8%-10%) and cheap (less than $10 per bottle). Vino verde is a very tasty summer wine by itself, but when combined with a touch of gin and a few olives, you get something altogether different, and better.
The trick with this cocktail is that you get a very light drink that still tastes like a martini. The vinho verde’s “green” flavors go well with the juniper of the gin and the briny notes of the olives, but the overall body of drink is very light from the low-alcohol and slight fizz of the wine. And if you are a martini drinker, this is a very good thing. Martinis rock, but as Dorothy Parker says…”two at the very most”. Summer is about long, lovely days- but regular dry martinis can make for short,
blotto tipsy nights. The upside-down martini with vino verde is a great way to turn a martini into a light, “long”, refreshing drink. If you are not a fan of typical “fruity” summer drinks, this version of the upside-down martini may be for you. And if you are a gin-and-tonic fan, the upside-down martini is a fun diversion.
As for the recipe, we suggest a 3-1 ratio of vinho verde to London dry gin. Even if you don’t normally like the juniper in gin, we bet you will find it is a good foil for the citrus and tang of the vinho verde. We also suggest including olives or some other briny garnish. The touch of brine melds well with the drink, it will lack an extra dimension if you omit the olives (we also tried cornichons, and they worked quite well). We tried the recipe with just a lemon twist, but most vinho verde has overt lemony flavors and the twist gets lost. The olives do make a difference in this cocktail.
So if you, or a friend, prefer traditional or classic cocktails more than the normal citrus-and-sugar drinks of summer, then the upside-down martini is worth a look. And if you just want a light summer cocktail, that also looks pretty cool, then the upside-down martini with vinho verde certainly fits the bill. Thanks Martha!
The Upside-Down Martini:
(Adapted from Martha Stewart
- 3 oz. vinho verde (we like Casal Garcia- tasty and cheap)
- 1 oz. dry gin
- Olives, caper berries or cornichons, for garnish
- In a medium lowball (or highball, if you like) glass add the gin and vinho verde. Add ice to fill glass, stir until well-chilled. Add olives, stir a bit more and serve.