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slkinsey

Reverse Cocktails

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I was at a fun cocktail party with friends this past weekend at which a variety of Martini recipes was served, spanning the various historical formulations of this most famous cocktail. After Martini number four or five, several of us went over to "Reverse Martinis" made with two parts white vermouth to one part gin. These are highly dependent on the quality of the vermouth (we were using Vya) and are best when made with an assertive gin. We loved them, and I don't think it was just the liquor in our stomachs talking.

This got me thinking about the whole concept of a reverse cocktail. I guess I'd define a reverse cocktail as one that is based on/inspired by a well understood cocktail formulation, but which turns the formula on its head by moving a lower alcohol modifier to the foreground and lightning the drink.

Sometimes this is relatively straightforward. A Manhattan may be transformed into a Reverse Manhattan simply by mixing two/three parts sweet vermouth to one part rye or bourbon. Other times it can be more complicated, as the creation of The Mischief - an eGullet Drink (a kind of Reverse Margarita) is described by Gary Regan.

Any other thoughts on reverse cocktails? I wonder if it would be possible to make a reverse Sidecar. . .


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I would love to make reverse martinis, but I never see vermouth in the stores that's not Noilly Prat or Martini and Rossi. Where do people get good vermouth? I'm in the Chicago area and it's true I haven't explored liquor stores that much, but I would for this.

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I would love to make reverse martinis, but I never see vermouth in the stores that's not Noilly Prat or Martini and Rossi. Where do people get good vermouth? I'm in the Chicago area and it's true I haven't explored liquor stores that much, but I would for this.

You can get Vya at Sam's Wine & Spirits, near North and Clybourn.

I've also seen Cinzano in some of the stores around Ukrainian Village.

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I would love to make reverse martinis, but I never see vermouth in the stores that's not Noilly Prat or Martini and Rossi. Where do people get good vermouth? I'm in the Chicago area and it's true I haven't explored liquor stores that much, but I would for this.

Noilly Pratt is actually very good stuff. It's not in the same league as Vya, but would certainly make a good Reverse Martini. A drop (not a dash) of orange bitters is good in a RM, too.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I would love to make reverse martinis, but I never see vermouth in the stores that's not Noilly Prat or Martini and Rossi. Where do people get good vermouth? I'm in the Chicago area and it's true I haven't explored liquor stores that much, but I would for this.

You can get Vya at Sam's Wine & Spirits, near North and Clybourn...

Yes. Vya is definitely available at Sam's. The website only shows the dry but I purchased both the sweet and dry there a couple months back. $18/750 ml.

I haven't looked for Vya at Binny's but both the dry and sweet are listed at their website at $20 each. I would be surprised if you couldn't find it at all of their many Chi-area locations.

If you aren't near a Binny's just pick up the Yellow Pages and call the fancy-schmanciest liquor store near you. My favorite Chi-area store, Foremost on Ashland, has great prices and some real surprises in it's inventory but it doesn't carry esoteric items like super premium vermouth or calvados. Finding Vya at your average corner liquor store seems quite unlikely.

You might be able to find Lillet though. It's not vermouth, exactly, but it's close enough that some folks substitute it for vermouth. It might make a nice reverse sort-of Martini or you could make a reverse Vesper with, say 2-2.5 oz Lillet Blanc, 1 oz gin and .5 oz vodka. Something in that ballpark might work out nicely.

Kurt


Edited by kvltrede (log)

“I like to keep a bottle of stimulant handy in case I see a snake--which I also keep handy.” ~W.C. Fields

The Handy Snake

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Thanks for the suggestions! Noilly Prat is what I buy and it's fine; I've just been intrigued by people talking about different vermouths and it seems like something that would be interesting.

I like Lillet; that's a good idea.

We sometimes have bottles of sake around-- the kind that's recommended to be served cold-- and I've wondered about making cocktails with that.

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What about reverse cocktails where the liquor is moved more into the forefront: such as a jack and coke or a gin and orange juice where the spirit suddenly becomes 50-75% of the gross volume of the drink.


He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Oddly enough, the earliest recipes for both the Martini and the Manhattan--O.H. Byron's, from 1884, and the ones from the 1887 revision of Jerry Thomas' Bar-Tender's Guide (in fact, this edition of his book may have been published as early as 1876)--are both "reverse" recipes.

Thomas calls for "1 wine-glass [i.e., 2 oz]" of vermouth to "1 pony [i.e., 1 oz]" of either whiskey or gin and specifies rye whiskey for the Manhattan and the lightly-sweetened (and now extremely rare) Old Tom gin for the "Martinez," as he calls it; in both cases, the vermouth would be the sweet Italian kind (he doesn't specify, but that was by far the most common).

Byron calls for "1 pony" of "French [i.e., dry] vermouth" and "1/2 pony" of plain old "whisky" in his Manhattan. (Note that he also prints a second recipe that uses "1/2 wine-glass" each of "whisky" and "Italian vermouth.") As for his Martinez, he simply says "Same as a Manhattan, only you substitute gin for whisky." He doesn't say which Manhattan recipe it's the same as; if both, there's your Dry Martini, at least in embryo.

In other words, everything old is new again. Personally, I prefer the half-and-half Martini (also with a dash of orange bitters) to the reverse Martini, but they're both fine: gentler, smoother, more seductive than the standard all-gin-and-no-vermouth kind, without being wimpy--provided that, as Dottore Kinsey says, you use an "assertive" gin (and I for one absolutely love Noilly Prat; Vya is fine, too, but for me it's good ol' "N.P." to the smooth, subtle, dry, nutty end).

I don't particularly care for the reverse Manhattan, though.

One of my all-time favorite old-school cocktails is a reverse one, though: the Rose, a Parisian drink from the teens or twenties (I may have posted it before; I can't recall). It requires 2 oz dry vermouth (N.P. for me), 1 oz kirschwasser (I like Trimbach for this) and 1 teaspoon raspberry syrup. Mmm-mm.


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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I don't particularly care for the reverse Manhattan, though.

Yea, I can see how that might not be the most interesting drink in the world. Obviously, a Reverse Martini or Reverse Manhattan depends highly on having a vermouth you really like and also on having a "reversed main ingredient" that is assertive enough to make its presence felt through the vermouth. If I were to make a Reverse Manhattan, I'd probably start with two parts Vya red vermouth (which I think it good enough to drink all on its own) to one part Bookers, and plenty of bitters.

One of my all-time favorite old-school cocktails is a reverse one, though: the Rose, a Parisian drink from the teens or twenties (I may have posted it before; I can't recall). It requires 2 oz dry vermouth (N.P. for me), 1 oz kirschwasser (I like Trimbach for this) and 1 teaspoon raspberry syrup. Mmm-mm.

Would you say that, as a general trend, cocktails have increased in alcoholic strength over time? Clearly, for example, some of the old "loggerhead thickened" drinks weren't all that high in alcohol. It's interesting, because when I searched cocktailDB for "Rose," I found some interesting variations on the drink you describe. This one is 1:1 kirschwasser and gin, which is somewhat similar; and this one is a bit more similar to your recipe, being 5:4:1 kirschwasser to dry vermouth to grenadine. Both are substantially more alcoholic than the recipe you give, and I wonder if they are more recent formulas.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Obviously, a Reverse Martini or Reverse Manhattan depends highly on having a vermouth you really like and also on having a "reversed main ingredient" that is assertive enough to make its presence felt through the vermouth.  If I were to make a Reverse Manhattan, I'd probably start with two parts Vya red vermouth (which I think it good enough to drink all on its own) to one part Bookers, and plenty of bitters.

That sounds like a good way of proceeding. Let us know when the lab results are in?

Would you say that, as a general trend, cocktails have increased in alcoholic strength over time?  ... I found some interesting variations on the drink you describe ... Both are substantially more alcoholic than the recipe you give, and I wonder if they are more recent formulas.

I think that really depends on the drink--Pre-Prohibition, folks used to drink a lot of plain Cocktails--booze, bitters, sugar, ice. Few drinks popular now are stronger than those. But they also went in for punches, which were basically Cosmo-strength, and there were some lighter drinks, too. As for the Rose, I think those other formulae are all later. The Parisian drink (which may date back to the first decade of the 20th century, if what Fernando Castellon says in his recent Larousse des cocktails is correct) appears to have been oft-imitated and oft-monkeyed with, generally to increase the alcoholic content. Not everybody wants their cocktail to be so subtle and light on its feet (often enough, I don't). There are also several completely unrelated (and inferior) drinks of the same name, including the one I printed in Esquire Drinks.

In its original formula, though, the Rose is a perfect example of the principle you state above: the kirschwasser, the "reversed main ingredient" here, is assertive almost to a fault and very hard to incorporate into conventional cocktail structures. But in this case the subtle, dry nuttiness of the Noilly Prat both tones down its pungency and plends with the nuttiness of its cherry-pit flavors. The bit of raspberry syrup imparts an evanescent pink color to the whole affair and adds a little sensual sweetness. Dee-lightful, as Teddy Roosevelt would say.


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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Obviously, a Reverse Martini or Reverse Manhattan depends highly on having a vermouth you really like and also on having a "reversed main ingredient" that is assertive enough to make its presence felt through the vermouth.  If I were to make a Reverse Manhattan, I'd probably start with two parts Vya red vermouth (which I think it good enough to drink all on its own) to one part Bookers, and plenty of bitters.

That sounds like a good way of proceeding. Let us know when the lab results are in?

Tried a Reverse Manhattan last night. 2 ounces Vya sweet vermouth, 1 ounce Bookers, 3 dashes Fee bitters, stir with cracked ice. It was pretty good. Bookers is just assertive enough to make an impact in both flavor and alcoholic strength. Not likely to take the place of Audrey's Bookers/Punt e Mes Manhattan in my heart, though.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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...One of my all-time favorite old-school cocktails is a reverse one, though: the Rose, a Parisian drink from the teens or twenties (I may have posted it before; I can't recall). It requires 2 oz dry vermouth (N.P. for me), 1 oz kirschwasser (I like Trimbach for this) and 1 teaspoon raspberry syrup. Mmm-mm...

That sounds particularly delicious. However, a quick trip to the websites of the two biggest liquor stores in town doesn't turn up Trimbach Kirschwasser. A bit of googling, though, turned up the Gary Regan column on the Rose. He mentions a few possible substitutes: "other great renditions of this spirit are available from companies such as Etter, a Swiss entity, the Clear Creek Distillery in Oregon, and St. George Spirits in Alameda, which renders a kirsch under its Aqua Perfecta label".

That said, I was taken aback when I saw the price of the Etter. Is the Trimbach priced similarly? My ignorance of the price of premium eaux de vie and eaux de vie in general aside, is there a less expensive bottling that might be suitable in a Rose?

Is Cherry Heering or Maraschino a suitable substitution or are they too sweet?

This is what's available at the "big two" in Chicago:

Dekuyper Kirschwasser, Cordial (USA) 750ml $13.99/Bottle

Etter "Kirsch", Cordial (Swizterland) 750ml $52.99/Bottle

Maraska Kirsch, Cordial (Croatia) 750ml $16.99/Bottle

Schladerer "Edel-Kirsch" Fruit (Cordial), Germany 750ml $21.99/Bottle

Schladerer "Kirsch", Fruit (Cordial) Cordial (Germany) 750ml $34.99/Bottle

Weis Kirsch Fruit Brandy, Germany 750ml $23.99/Bottle

Kammer Black Forest Kirschwasser 750ML $39.99/btl

Miscault Kirsch 750ML $37.99

Anybody familiar with any of the more modestly priced offerings? Anybody know where to find Trimbach in Chicago? Also, how do you Kirsch-drinkers use it? The Cocktaildb turns up quite a few recipes featuring Kirsch. Any favorites?

Thanks.

Kurt


“I like to keep a bottle of stimulant handy in case I see a snake--which I also keep handy.” ~W.C. Fields

The Handy Snake

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That said, I was taken aback when I saw the price of the Etter.  Is the Trimbach priced similarly? My ignorance of the price of premium eaux de vie and eaux de vie in general aside, is there a less expensive bottling that might be suitable in a Rose?

Is Cherry Heering or Maraschino a suitable substitution or are they too sweet?

I agree with you about the Etter--yikes! Here in New York, the Trimbach is easy to find and goes for about $30 a bottle--not cheap, but doable. I suspect any of the kirshwassers you list would be fine, except the Dekuyper. I've had horrible experiences with domestic kirsches and this drink. (I made about a hundred of them for a conference presentation last year with one of the domestic brands, all that was available in the town I was in, and had an awfully hard time convincing people that the Rose was as delightful as I kept insisting it was, even though in this case I knew better). I don't know the difference between Edel-Kirsch and Kirsch, but the plainer the better.

Neither Cherry Heering nor maraschino will work in this drink--you want a clear, dry eau-de-vie, not a liqueur (kirsch tastes more of cherry pits than it does of cherries; in this, it's closer to maraschino than to Cherry Heering).

Good luck!

--DW


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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Do outfits like Dekuyper and Hiram Walker make anything good?


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Do outfits like Dekuyper and Hiram Walker make anything good?

If by "good" you mean products that allow you to make big buckets on the cheap of Alabama Slammers or Sex On The Beach for indiscriminate college students... why yes of course. They make very good products :laugh:

On the subject of reverse cocktails... not being flippant but genuinely curious...

What happens if you more or less reverse the ratios of a classic Depth Charge or Boilermaker? For those sheltered folks who've spent less time in dive bars than some of us these are typically made by dropping a shot glass of whiskey into a full glass of beer (usually cheap draft beer and cheap whiskey).

But what might transpire if you took a really good ale, lager, stout or specialty beer (such as some of the raspberry beers, Belgian ales etc.) and put a 1/2 oz or so into a shaken or stirred drink that included conventional distilled spirits as the primary ingredient(s)?

Is there such a drink or can you think of some possibilities that might work?

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Sure it could work, especially with some of the Belgian ones. A true lambic of gueuze could be interesting, since it's so sour. And I could see something like Duvel working pretty well in a cocktail. There are, after all, a zillion cocktails topped with Champagne.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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We sometimes have bottles of sake around-- the kind that's recommended to be served cold-- and I've wondered about making cocktails with that.

The purple--created AFAIK at Pod, near the University of Pennsylvania--5 parts Sake, 1 part Chambord. (proportions are the result of later tinkering, not a recipe from the restaurant) They had a menu of single-color cocktails: red, blue, green, and so on. The purple was the only one my friends and I found notable. I think one of the fuller and rounder sakes would work best (as opposed to dry).

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The purple sounds great. We have some Chambord, so I'll try it. Thanks!

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What about reverse cocktails where the liquor is moved more into the forefront:  such as a jack and coke or a gin and orange juice where the spirit suddenly becomes 50-75% of the gross volume of the drink.

You make it sound like this is not the way these drinks are normally prepared. :wacko:

*Hiccup*

/falls off task chair


�As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy, and to make plans.� - Ernest Hemingway, in �A Moveable Feast�

Brooklyn, NY, USA

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Would you say that, as a general trend, cocktails have increased in alcoholic strength over time?

If I can jump in here...

I don't think the increase in strength is really the big thing. From what I can tell, there has always been a variety of strengthed mixed drinks or just plain drinks available for your drinking pleasure. I think the big change , especially in the US, has been the increase in size.

Most cocktail recipes don't call for more than a couple ounces of hard liquor, yet you go out to hotel or martini bars and are served fish bowls full of gin or vodka. Americans' idea of value is always tied to volume.

Erik

fixed typo


Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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It´s funny that the owner of French vermouth company Noilly only drinks Italian Vermouth Martini. :)

 

My favourite reverse and original pair currently is The original St.Germain and "reverse" St. Germain. Switch: green chart for yellow, lemon for lime, grape for orange and egg white for yolk.

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