Why Julia Child's Favorite Cocktail Is My Ideal Holiday Drink

All the fun of a martini, but with less of a hangover the next day.

a low angle view looking into two vodka martinis served in classic martini glasses and each garnished with three olives
Photo: Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

"One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough." ― James Thurber

Bear with me on this infomercial-style pitch: Love martinis, but hate that you can only drink two or so before you have to call it a night? Let me introduce you to your new favorite drink: The Upside-Down Martini.

I love a dirty martini during the holidays. There's something about the classic cocktail that feels retro but classy in the best way. Plus, they're crisp and cold, and play the perfect foil to all that hot, heavy food the holidays tend to bring with them. But, as much as I love them, I struggle with the fact that more than one martini leaves my spirit a little too merry and bright, if you know what I mean.

That's why, a couple months back at a party celebrating Stanley Tucci's signature martini, I was intrigued to learn about another variation on the cocktail — one made popular by none other than Julia Child herself.

Yes, the Upside-Down Martini was renowned chef and author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, (and personal hero of mine), Julia Child's favorite cocktail. Well, all it took was one sip and I understood why.

What Is an Upside-Down Martini & How Do You Make It?

The Upside-Down Martini is also known as a Reverse Martini, and the latter name says it all. This drink flips the proportions of a typical martini and serves them up in reverse. Rather than five parts vodka or gin to one part vermouth, the Upside-Down Martini calls for one part gin or vodka to five parts vermouth.

You've got options at this point. You can use vodka or gin, dry or sweet vermouth, and garnish with olives or lemon peel, depending on your taste preferences. To make Julia's preferred version of the drink, use gin and extra dry vermouth (like Noilly Prat), and garnish with a twist of lemon peel. What's not up for debate? Your glass must be very, very cold.

If you're not a huge fan of dry vermouth and typically prefer your martinis on the drier side, you can also do a less vermouth-heavy ratio, like 2:1 or 3:1 vermouth to gin/vodka. Or, if you like a sweeter drink, swap dry vermouth for sweet vermouth. Personally, my ideal drink falls somewhere around the 4:1 ratio with a nice dry gin and a splash of olive juice. The world is your oyster, and the martini is what you make it.

Why I Love Julia Child's Upside-Down Martini

I'm not one to complain about a stiff drink — especially after the stress of the holidays has come to a head. But three martinis in a night... is a lot. And, the typical holiday cocktails just don't cut it. Champagne gives me a headache, heavy liqueurs like Irish creme or coffee liqueur are too sweet to have alongside dinner, and mulled wines put me to sleep well before I'm done watching all the necessary Christmas movies. My ideal holiday drink is light, bright, and boozy, but not so boozy that I can't answer all the "When are the grandkids coming?" questions that come my way. Enter: the Upside-Down Martini.

Of course, I'd trust any Julia Child recipe, but the real reason I love her cocktail? It's not going to floor me quite like a "full-strength" aka classic martini. Since it's heavier on the vermouth than gin, it's a bit lighter than a traditional 'tini, meaning I can sip on them throughout the night and still be able to function the next day. This is thanks to the moderately low-proof, about 15-18% alcohol by volume, of the vermouth. Think of it like all the joy of a martini with less of a hangover.

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