If socially distancing has taught me anything, it’s that I love bars more than I love alcohol. I miss sitting in a space that I don’t pay rent on while sipping on a cold martini that I did not mix and listening to music that I did not choose. I miss surrendering control, I think.
But, like most people, I have found a way to let loose with friends and co-workers by drinking drinks while FaceTiming, Zooming, or otherwise interfacing with others via electronic communications. The problem, however, is that without the pacing provided by the environment of a bar—waiting to order, waiting for the drink to be mixed—and someone else to offer you water, things can devolve very quickly if you are not careful. Though I may begin a virtual happy hour with a properly measured and diluted martini, I will end it with a glass full of gin, pickle juice, and ice.
This is where “upside-down cocktails” come in. The premise is simple: You take a classic, vermouth-containing cocktail—like a martini or Manhattan—and you invert the proportions. Instead of drinking 60mL of gin or whiskey and 30mL of vermouth, you are now drinking twice as much vermouth and half of the spirit. But—and this is important—it still feels, looks, and sips like a whole-arse cocktail.
If you don’t think you like vermouth, it might be because you haven’t been storing it properly (in the fridge), using it promptly (within a couple of months), or fell for the macho anti-vermouth rhetoric pushed by the “bone dry” martini enthusiasts of the 1990s. Vermouth is very good, particularly if you get a fun one like Punt e Mes or Carpano Antica Formula.
You can flip many classic cocktails in this manner, but we’re going to be focusing on the Manhattan, mostly because I have decided it’s called an “upside-down man,” and that’s fun for me. To make it you will need:
60mL sweet vermouth
30mL rye whiskey
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Add everything to a mixing glass filled with ice and stir until it becomes very cold. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a strip of orange zest if you have it. Repeat for as long as you’re on that Zoom call.