Julia Child’s Upside-Down Martini
Joyeux Anniversaire Julia Child! Today would have been Julia’s 108th birthday. It has been a tradition to celebrate her birthday on Taste With The Eyes for the past several years.
This year, let’s raise a toast to Julia with one of her favorite cocktails, the Upside-Down Martini also known as a reverse or “wet” martini, made with five parts vermouth to one part gin. We are going to craft Julia’s special drink with exclusively French alcools.
Noilly Prat was a favorite of Julia’s, a fine vermouth, beautifully crafted by the sea in the South of France. It is made with 14 global herbs and spices such as chamomile and coriander from Morocco, bitter orange from Tunisia, and orris root from Italy.
Diplôme Dry Gin has been produced in France since 1945 from a selection of the finest natural botanicals including genever berries, whole lemons, angelica, saffron, and fennel seed. The original recipe was perfected during WWII in the City of Dijon. At the end of the war, the original recipe became the official gin for the American Army stationed in Europe.
With naturally less alcohol than a traditional martini, Julia would say, “The best thing about a reverse martini is that you can have two of them!” (Full upside-down martini recipe below).
A Historic Re-Creation
Please join me as I re-create Julia Child’s very first meal in France, one that she experienced with her husband Paul Child. The story takes place in Rouen, France in November of 1948.
I originally wrote this post back in 2007. I resurrect it in August, sometimes with a new recipe, to celebrate Julia Child’s birthday. This year I am including a drink that she especially liked, the Upside-Down Martini.
The text is as she describes her meal to us in My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006.
The re-creation photographs are ones that I have taken on my travels; some are from France, others from California, a couple are shot in my own home. I use the sepia tone to give the images the feel of a single place over 70 years ago.
Come, let’s travel back in time and enjoy French food and revel in its perfection via Julia…
Julia Child’s First Meal in France
“We passed the city’s ancient and beautiful clock tower, and then its famous cathedral,
still pockmarked from battle but magnificent with its stained glass windows.
We rolled to a stop in La Place du Vieux Marché,
the square where Joan of Arc had met her fiery fate.”
“Rouen is a 2000 year old city located in Normandy on the Seine River
not too far from the English Channel.”
“There the Guide Michelin directed us to Restaurant La Couronne.
It was warm inside, and the dining room was a comfortably old-fashioned brown-and-white space,
neither humble nor luxurious.”
“The waiter is telling them about the chicken they ordered,” Paul whispered,
“how it was raised, how it will be cooked, what side dishes they can have with it,
and which wines would go best.”
“Wine?” exclaimed Julia, “at lunch?”
“We began our lunch with oysters on the half shell.
They had a sensational briny flavor and a smooth texture that was entirely new and surprising.”
“Rouen is famous for its duck dishes, but after consulting the waiter Paul had decided to order
perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top.
I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly.
The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that
blended marvelously with the browned butter.
It was a morsel of perfection.”
“Then came the salade verte laced with a slightly acidic vinaigrette.
And I tasted my first real baguette – Yum!
Along with our meal, we happily downed a whole bottle of Pouilly-Fumé,
a wonderfully crisp white wine from the Loire region.
“We followed our meal with a leisurely dessert of fromage.”
“Paul and I floated out the door into the brilliant sunshine and cool air.
Our first lunch together in France had been absolute perfection.”
“It was the most exciting meal of my life.”
August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004
chef, mentor, heroine, author, television icon,
inspiration, nonagenarian, friend
“…A careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life changing experience.
Such was the case with the Sole Meunière I ate at La Couronne on my first day in France, in November 1948. It was an epiphany. In all the years since that succulent meal, I have yet to lose the feelings of wonder and excitement that it inspired in me. I can still almost taste it.
And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite – toujours bon appetit!“
-Julia Child, My Life In France
Upside-Down Martini Recipe
Add the vermouth and gin to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel. Optionally, add one large ice cube to the coupe. Enjoy as Julia would, “Everything in moderation … including moderation.”
À votre santé!
More Julia Child Tributes
Julia’s fabulous recipe for Sole Meunière (here)
Sneak into Julia’s kitchen to watch her make the authentic Caesar Salad and Salmon in Papillote in her usual charming and un-fussy manner (here)
Join Julia and her friends in a beautiful courtyard, seated at a little white table beneath a leafy trellis for a splendid lunch, while they uncover the secret of loup de mer (here)