There’s plenty of debate around what makes the best Martini in terms of spirit-to-vermouth ratio; there’s the old-school camp that prefers little to no vermouth, and on the complete opposite side of the field, those who prefer what’s called a “Reverse Martini,” when the vermouth takes center stage and is bolstered by gin or vodka. Other times that‘s called an “Upside Down Martini.”
At The Recess Room in Fountain Valley, California, bartender Dany Maldonado goes even further with an incredibly busy but dangerously quaffable riff on the Reverse Martini. The Summer Lips has nine ingredients in all but deftly walks a tightrope between sweet, dry and fruity.
The base of the cocktail is Lillet Blanc. Essentially a modern take on a now-lost apéritif called Kina Lillet, the vermouth is best known for its inclusion in the Vesper, James Bond’s take on the Martini. Lillet Blanc is, by all accounts, sweeter and less bitter than its progenitor, lacking the quinine of the original apéritif, and it works well as the base of this drink. It gets fortified by Absolut Elyx vodka in Maldonado’s recipe, and then the drink gets a bit more complicated.
Dry curaçao is a bittersweet orange liqueur, and should never be substituted with the cloyingly sweet orange curaçao from the lower shelves of the liquor store. Dolin Dry is an excellent value for an all-purpose dry vermouth that can be readily used in a more traditional Martini if the mood strikes. Aquavit brings some extra botanical notes to the party, often those of fennel, cardamom and caraway. Be sure not to use an aged aquavit, as that could potentially ruin the drink’s otherwise pristine clarity. Then chardonnay adds a bit of fruit and acid, and a bar spoon of Green Chartreuse—plus a dash of orange bitters—adds even more complexity and botanical depth.
The sheer amount of ingredients does mean it’s difficult to quickly throw the Summer Lips together when entertaining, or even if making for oneself. If making multiple for friends, it’s advisable to make two or even three at a time, tripling the volume of each ingredient. If doing so, it’s also advisable to make sure to use a very large mixing glass.
- 1 1/4 ounces Lillet Blanc apéritif
- 1 ounce Absolut Elyx vodka
- 1/2 ounce dry curaçao
- 1/4 ounce Dolin Dry Vermouth de Chambéry
- 1/4 ounce aquavit
- 1/4 ounce chardonnay
- 1 barspoon Green Chartreuse
- 1 dash orange bitters
- Garnish: melon ball
Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. If there is leftover, keep it on ice in a small jar or sidecar carafe on ice.
Garnish with a speared honeydew melon ball.