Monday, July 4, 2011

Imbibe Mondays: How to Make an Inverted Martini and A Review of Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth

A Northwest Twist on a Classic Cocktail:

Occidental Hotel from Montgomery Street, San Francisco 1866

“There is nothing revolutionary about cocktails, only evolutionary” - Chris McMillian

Dubbed by H.L. Mencken to be “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet,” the martini cocktail has its origins from the middle of the 19th century with a drink called the Martinez. Served at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, the Martinez evolved over time from a sweetened version of gin, called Old Tom, and sweet vermouth to a version of dry vermouth and gin we know today.

Though commonly associated with our favorite “Double O” agent, the classic martini used gin rather than vodka. On this Monday afternoon I will be making a Northwest variation of this martini called the Inverted Martini which uses two parts vermouth to one part gin. But before I get into the actual recipe I want to quickly review my secret ingredient of the day.

Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth Review

I recently purchased a fairly new locally produced Portland vermouth (the company just celebrated its first year), called Imbue. Not only is this vermouth made with Oregon Pinot gris, the white grape varietal of which the Willamette Valley is mast famous for, but it is unique in that, it has created an entirely new category of vermouth, “bittersweet.” Imbue plays a beautiful balancing act between the sweetness of the classic “blancs” with a wonderfully strong character of bitterness.

Notably Imbue Vermouth is not to be associated with your granny’s preferred post-supper snifter. Created in collaboration between longtime friends and winemakers Derek Einberger and Jennifer Kilfoil, Imbue is aged in American and French oak barrels, macerated with botanicals and then infused with an artisan Oregon brandy from Clear Creek Distillery (known most famously for their single malt whiskey).

Price: $22.99 for a 750ml bottle. Sold at various Portland locations or request your local wine merchant to special-order it through

Alcohol Content: 16.5% alcohol by volume.

Color: Somewhere between a chenin blanc and chardonnay, Umbue is imparted with faint aurelian tint and accents of light honey.

Nose:  An unassuming and delightful fresh bitter sweetness. An inviting crisp and easy citrus with freshly cut oak (though not overly woody) and cream fragrances.

Tasting Notes: The front has a robust and articulate tart arrival which lands on the mid and stern of the palate and develops into comprehensive and lovely pear, lemon and pineapple essences. Melding these flavors together is an overriding creaminess which coats the entire palate. Attempting to arise out of this herbaceous bittersweet treat is a spiciness which never fully emerges, though this is not a negative thing, I feel it simply adds to the complexity and pleasure of the drink.

Conclusion: I was pleasantly surprised by the composite and full bodied flavor of this beverage. This is a gin I would actually enjoy drinking on the rocks.  

Inverted Martini Recipe (1 Serving):

2 oz Imbue Vermouth
1 oz Gin
Ice and Orange Zest

Step 1: Fill martini glass with ice or place in the freezer to cool while you prepare the beverage.

Step 2: Fill ice up to the top of a mixing glass and add the 1 oz of gin. If I wanted to give this cocktail the ultimate Northwest experience I would have used House Spirits Aviation Gin but I still have some Tanqueray left in my bar so the Aviation will have to wait.

Step 3: Add 2 oz of Imbue vermouth. Just as I said with the bitters in the Old Fashioned post, you neither need to be afraid of Vermouth, especially in a Martini. Gin is an aromatically and botanically based spirit. It has herbs and spices which are soaked or infused in it during the distillation process to give it flavor. Vermouth is an aromatically and botanically infused wine. The herbalism of the vermouth and the herbalism of the gin are complementary to each other which allow the magic to happen. On top of this Imbue vermouth phenomenal standalone.

Step 4: With one hand holding the mixing glass, stir ingredients until it is as arcticly cold as possible without being over diluted. And I know what you’re thinking. While James Bond’s iconic cocktail, the vodka martini, can be shaken, which allows the beverage to become as extremely cold, it's simply a preference issue because doesn't have any vermouth within it. A gin martini, however, should be stirred, not shaken. As with all cocktails, part of the enjoyment of the beverage is the ascetic nature embedded within each drink. And only a few cocktails can achieve the translucent crystalline clarity such as the martini. A gin martini should be silky and smooth. When you shake the drink you deposit air bubbles in the drink, making it frothy. This is where you hear people say the gin is “bruised.”Stirring takes more time, but it is worth it.

Step 5: Take your chilled martini glass and strain in the makings. Take a lemon zest (leaving off the white pith) and spray lemon oil over the beverage by twisting the zest. Brush the edge of the glass with the twist and let it go for a swim.

Step 6: Enjoy! And Have a good Fourth of July!

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