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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Upside-down Martini: recipe for Julia Child’s favorite cocktail

The opening of Nora Ephron’s latest film, Julie and Julia, has revived interest in one of America’s national treasures: Julia Child. My wife and I saw the film the week-end it opened, and couldn’t help but notice that cocktails were present in many scenes for both Julie and Julia. There was no great surprise, then, in discovering that America’s most famous chef had invented her own apéritif: the Upside-down (or Reverse) Martini. Julia’s recipe calls for a 5:1 ratio of Noilly Prat Vermouth to Gin, stirred with ice and then strained into a cocktail glass. Noilly Prat is one of (if not the) great French Vermouth; I have used it to rinse many Vodka Martini glasses, and even imbibed higher concentrations in the Paris Cocktail, but 5:1 with gin? I think not.

A little web-based research uncovered the usual number of recipe variations, including some served on the rocks… that seemed to be the ticket even though the chances of Julia obtaining much ice in late 1940’s France seemed low. Taking a white wine glass and filling it three-quarters full of ice, I discovered it would only hold an ounce and a half of Noilly Prat if there was to be room for much gin. Sometimes sacrifices must be made. Next a half ounce of Tanqueray® Gin was poured over the ice and given half a stir with an espresso (i.e. small) spoon. Twisting a bit of lemon peel over the glass and rubbing it around the rim was all it took to finish this delicious apéritif cocktail. As Judith Jones said in the movie, “yumm.”

Upside-down Martini

1 ½ oz (or more) Noilly Prat® Vermouth

½ oz Tanqueray® Gin

Fill a white wine glass three-quarters full with cracked or crushed ice. Add the Noilly Prat® Vermouth, leaving room for the gin (you might be able to add a little extra vermouth based on the size of the glass and the quantity of ice. Add the Tanqueray® Gin and give the glass a half stir (not too much!) with a small espresso spoon. Twist a strip of lemon peel over the glass, rub it around the rim, and drop it on top. Bon Appétit!

Six Classic Cocktail Recipes from the 1950’s

Viewing newscaster Rachel Maddow’s amusing video about six classic Cocktails of the Fifties on YouTube made me realize that while many of the cocktails mentioned in that old article in Esquire magazine were old even in the Fifties, they had never gone out of style. Two reasons for that are 1) they’re delicious, and 2) they are fairly easy to make. Rachel gives her recipes in the video (sorry, no demos), and you can find links to my recipes in the World Cocktail Brain or in this article. It’s fun to compare recipes and use them as starting points for developing your personal twist on a classic cocktail. Just go with the flow and do what comes naturally.

The traditional Champagne Cocktail is so simple that I have never even blogged a recipe for it. Just drop a sugar cube into a champagne flute, add 2-3 dashes of Angostura Bitters, and fill the flute with champagne. If you’re looking for some tasty champagne cocktails that are a little more work, click on the above link to see recipes for the French 75 and the Cranberry Champagne Cocktail.

The Daiquiri is another classic. Beloved of Ernest Hemingway (and countless others), this blend of Rum and freshly squeezed lime juice (plus a little sweetener) is hard to beat. It may also be served frozen, but I prefer mine shaken and poured into a cocktail glass taken straight from the freezer.

If you haven’t sampled a Manhattan, what are you waiting for? This American original may be mixed with either Bourbon or Rye. Be careful though, these are so delicious they may be addicting. I like mine with a Luxardo Marasche® Marasca Cherry. Mmmm.

The Martini is sure to please all lovers of Gin. Since this cocktail approaches 100% in content (when well made), you will want to use quality Gin. Don’t forget: Martinis are better stirred than shaken. I’ll let you try Rachel’s recipe for a “real” Martini, and give you my recipe for a Vodka Martini instead.

Rachel’s recipe is for the traditional Old Fashioned made with Bourbon, but an Old Fashioned can also be mixed with Canadian Club, Brandy, Gin, Rye, or Rum. You can make an Old Fashioned with almost whatever liquor happens to be your favorite, just vary the bitters to compliment the liquor.

The final classic is the acclaimed Stinger, a simple mix of Cognac and Crème de Menthe that is sure to please lovers of brandy and mint. Vary the ratio of Cognac to Crème de Menthe to get just the taste you like. Besides, experimentation can be fun.

Here’s a link to a slideshow on my blog.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stinger – This classic cocktail recipe is a blast from the past

Newscaster Rachel Maddow is also a great lover of classic cocktails. Discovering her amusing video on six classic Cocktails of the Fifties on YouTube reminded me that I hadn’t had a Stinger in ages. This classic cocktail recipe is easy to prepare and is great as an after dinner drink or to sip anytime you want (or need) a cocktail. This cocktail’s name, and its potential for double meaning, have resulted in mentions in many movies. I always get a laugh from the scene in The Bishop’s Wife where the angel Dudley (Cary Grant) suggests that the catty group of gossips order Stingers with their luncheon.

The Stinger is easy to make; it’s what’s known as a Duo, a cocktail with only two ingredients: a liquor and a liqueur. A Stinger is made with Cognac (or Brandy) and white Crème de Menthe. Some Stinger recipes go as high as a 1:1 ratio of ingredients; they must either love Crème de Menthe or be using bad Brandy! I like mint, but not that much. The recipe below is 2:1 Cognac to Crème de Menthe, but you can go as high as 3:1 and still enjoy the Stinger experience. Experiment until you get just the taste you like. By the way, if you don’t have white Crème de Menthe you can use green. The taste will be the same, but you will actually be drinking a Green Hornet.


2 oz Cognac (or Brandy)

1 oz Crème de Menthe (white)

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with cracked ice. Stir briskly until it’s ice cold while imagining your parents at a swank cocktail party in the fifties (this may be quite a stretch). Strain into a chilled cocktail glass enjoy!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Daiquiri anyone? Simple recipe for a classic cocktail.

The Daiquiri is an easy cocktail recipe to make and can be very rewarding, especially when it’s a proper Daiquiri made with freshly squeezed lime juice. While he was living in Cuba, Ernest Hemingway became a great fan of the Daiquiri (and the Mojito). The other night as I was adding Papa to the World Cocktail Brain and linking him to the entries for his favorite cocktails, I remembered that there was an excess of limes in the fridge. Serendipity. I was soon at the bar, squeezing limes and looking for the white rum (you could use gold or dark rum for a Daiquiri, but that would make the color look a little strange, so best stick with white).

This classic Daiquiri is served straight up in a cocktail glass, but if you’re looking for something icy to sip, you can serve it on the rocks. As a third variation, you could even make it into a nice summer cooler by mixing it in a Collins glass and adding seltzer water.


2 oz white Rum

1 oz (approx.) freshly squeezed lime juice (1 lime)

1 tsp Simple syrup (or sweetener of your choice)

Combine ingredients in a shaker. Shake briskly while thinking about Papa Hemingway in a Cuban bar, gazing at the sea under a slowly turning ceiling fan (this may be harder to do than you think). Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lime wheel, and enjoy!