Reverse cocktails: What they are & why you’ll love them

FeaturedFood & Drink

Written by:


Even if you are a spirited and stirred devotee, you may find yourself craving something a little different that doesn’t veer too far from your preferred potable. The reverse cocktail, which shifts the ratio of spirit to modifier and also gets complexity and body from flavor-packed ingredients like bitters or liqueur, can be your jam. Also, if you’re looking for a lower ABV option, in some instances, the switcheroo means lowering the boozy wallop.

Switch things up with these seven drinks, including three vastly different Martini variations, that don’t play by the rules.

Image Credit: IvanZivkovic/ istockphoto.


SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.

2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you're ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals get started now.





Reverse Martini

Recipe courtesy of Nalee Kim, Beverage Program Director, Tonari, Washington, D.C.


At the this concept that in pre-Covid times focused on wafu—Japanese pasta and pizza—Kim wanted to let vermouth shine as the solo star rather than a supporting player. Chef Katsuya Fukushima also suggested putting a riff on the three Martini lunch on the menu. “After discussion and thought, the only way that would work is if it’s a reverse cocktail where the lower ABV is the base,” she says. “The appeal of a reverse cocktail is the idea of being able to sip on something the entirety of a meal from the moment you sit down.”

This recipe is based on theirs.

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail glass, add ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.

Image Credit: Lucas Ranzuglia / iStock.

Beekman Reversed Martini

Recipe adapted from Amir Babayoff, Beverage Director/Head Bartender, Ophelia, New York, NY


“There is a psychological element to a reversed cocktail which triggers our curiosity in wanting to try it,” Babayoff believes. A spring-focused, aromatic Martini was the inspiration for this drink, which stirs a Japanese gin with notes of yuzu, Hinoki wood, Sanscho and gyokuro tea with minty tarragon and heady bergamot. “The focus [is] given more to the flavors supporting the spirit rather than the spirit itself.” Ophelia uses a house made makrut lime tincture; here we have substituted citrus bitters.

Add all ingredients except oil to a cocktail glass, add ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass and garnish with tarragon oil dots if using.

For the tarragon oil:


Combined 15 grapes blanched, fresh tarragon leaves and ½ cup grapeseed oil in a blender, and blend until smooth. Strain it through cheesecloth and store the oil in a tight container or tincture bottle.

Image Credit: bhofack2 / iStock.

Vesper Lynd Reverse Martini

Recipe courtesy of Sean Burke, Director of Operations, SafeHouse, Chicago, IL


“The Vesper Lynd Martini takes inspiration from the James Bond series and is the first Martini Bond ordered in Ian Fleming’s 1953 book Casino Royale,” Burke says. The original iteration is a potent potable with 3 ounces of gin, 1 ounce of vodka and half an ounce of vermouth. “We reversed the proportions for a more nuanced and enjoyable experience.”

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a half lemon wheel.

Image Credit: Castle City Creative / iStock.


Recipe courtesy of Rob Aveau, Bartender, Blue Duck Tavern and Park Hyatt Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C.


Aveau didn’t want to simply reverse the ratios in a traditional Manhattan; as he describes it, “we took aim at its very ethos.” While a rich, boozy Manhattan lets you embrace your inner introvert, he says, this floral and slightly bitter and earth libation “will have you dreaming of morning jogs and sun-soaked patios.” He uses two kinds of vermouth here to elevate the drink’s profile and add another dimension.

Add all ingredients except oil to a cocktail glass, add ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.

Image Credit: MaximFesenko / iStock.

Armagnac Martinez

Recipe courtesy of Bartender Chelsea Kaiser


Kaiser and a representative from González Byass were toying around with proportions that would better showcase the Spanish aromatized wine; her eventual recipe also stirs in an unaged brandy from France’s Armagnac region. “The appeal of the reverse proportion drink, to me, is that it’s a nice, sessionable low ABV cocktail experience that allows the modifiers to take center stage,” she says,” “[It also lets] some of the tertiary notes in our favorite base spirits to harmonize with these aromatics wines.”

  • 2 oz. González Byass La Copa Rojo Vermouth

  • 1 oz. Armagnac blanche (she uses Cobrafire)

  • ¼ oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

  • 1 tsp. demerara syrup (1:1 ratio of demerara or raw sugar to water)

  • 2 dashes orange bitters

  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters

  • orange twist, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail glass, add ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with an orange twist.

For more on the original gin Martinez and the best gins to make it with, please click here.

Image Credit: MaximFesenko.

Reverse Manhattan

Recipe courtesy of Martin Gutierrez, Bar Manager, Juvia Miami, Miami, FL


Miami heat necessitates this “upside-down” take on the Manhattan, a “classic that carries the same ingredients we know and love, just measured in inverse proportions,” Gutierrez says. He also points to the current vermouth renaissance and the popularity of food-friendly cocktails as the reason for the uptick in this drink category.

  • 2 oz. sweet vermouth

  • 1 oz. rye whiskey

  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

  • Amarena cherry (or other cocktail cherries), for garnish

Add the first three ingredients to a mixing glass, add ice and stir until well-chilled Strain into an Old Fashioned glass over one large cube and garnish with a cherry.

Image Credit: kateholms / iStock.

Back From The City

Recipe courtesy of Willy Estada, Lead Bartender, Seawell Fish ‘n Oyster and Minnow Bar, Miami, Florida


Estrada takes the ratio for a Reverse Manhattan and makes it all more complex. Apricot brandy adds fruity sweetness, barrel-aged bitters lend more whiskey flavor and cardamom gives it a touch of exotic spice.

Add all ingredients except garnish to a mixing glass, add ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the bay leaf and edible flowers.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

Image Credit: ogdanhoda / iStock.

More from MediaFeed

7 classic New Orleans cocktails to celebrate Mardi Gras

Image Credit: istockphoto.