A note to Vodka Martini drinkers who allow nary a whiff of vermouth to touch their glass: You’re barely drinking a cocktail, let alone a Martini. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But in the summer heat, why not flip the script? A Reverse Vodka Martini, in which the ratios of vodka and vermouth are switched or vermouth is replaced with or augmented by other low-ABV ingredients, might be just the drink you’re looking for to stay sharp even while you swelter. These four drinks are big on flavor and low on proof.
Better Half (The Dorsey, The Venetian, Las Vegas)
Juyoung Kang, the lead bartender at The Dorsey in Las Vegas, loves the balance that amontillado sherry brings to cocktails. In this Vodka Martini variation, she uses it along with chablis and a tiny bit of Grand Marnier to round out a drink that’s bracing but won’t knock you out in the summer heat. “A low-ABV cocktail keeps you happy and buzzed without you getting all tipsy,” says Kang. “It’s like day drinking and being able to function and perform.”
Summer Lips (The Recess Room, Fountain Valley, Calif.)
As beverage director at The Recess Room in California’s Orange County, Dany Maldonado keeps the jigger busy with this slightly baroque but dangerously quaffable riff on the Martini, featuring everything from Lillet Blanc apéritif to frozen melon balls. The Summer Lips has nine ingredients in all but deftly walks a tightrope between sweet, dry, fruity and, most important, not-too-boozy. Get ready for an endless summer!
Summer Days & City Nights (Townsend, Philadelphia)
Jeff Jagger, the bar manager at Philadelphia’s Townsend, created this vermouth-forward on-ramp 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 added benefit of not having to worry as much about the repercussions of tomorrow.”
Reverse Martini, Bartender’s Special (The Starlight Room, San Francisco)
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 right up the road in Sonoma County. Michael Lee, a certified sommelier and the assistant director of food and beverage, calls it 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.