The Reverse Martini


It is no secret I have a healthy obsession with gin. It is the canvas I like to build most of my drinks on. But right after my obsession with gin is my obsession with aperitif wines/vermouth. In my humble opinion it is the least understood and most underutilized cocktail ingredient in our current cocktail rebirth. It is one of two ingredients in a Martini and one of three ingredients in a Manhattan, yet the majority of Americans and even many professional cocktail makers know very little about it and do not place importance on it.

There are three main reasons why Americans shy away from Vermouth. One, the famous haters such as Winston Churchill who declared that the way to make a martini correctly is extremely chilled gin and then bowing in the direction of France. Secondly, it is trendy to order a martini “dry”, although in my seven years experience behind the bar it is scary how many customers order a martini that way but do not really understand what they are asking…but it sounds correct! And finally, most do not realize that vermouth has a shelf life. And if you have ever had wine that has been opened for days/weeks that has oxidized it is horrible. The same thing happens to Vermouth (although it takes longer to turn). But if your first experience with the stuff is oxidized Vermouth, anyone sane drinker would want to keep it as far away from their lips as possible.

If you want to learn the magic of vermouth I suggest you sign up for a class with me, but in the mean time you can come in to Wisdom or Church & State and order a REVERSE MARTINI.

What is a reverse martini? Besides being the favored drink of Julia Child, it is a simple reverse in the ratio of gin and vermouth. It puts the vermouth/aperitif wine on stage and uses the gin for some body and a botanical subtle kick. Much lighter in proof than a standard Martini and yet much stronger than a glass of wine or beer. It may be the perfect drink for the individual who loves the elegance and flavor profile of a classic cocktail but whose tolerance level is not ready for the heat!

One combination that I recently came up with is the BLUE ROSE. The Cocchi Rosé is a new aperitif wine from Cocchi that has incredible depth and a nice layer of bitterness from the chinchona (ken-KEE-nah) bark that is added. BTW the “Americano” does not refer to American but to “Amer” or bitter.


2.25 oz of Cocchi Americano Rosé Aperitif Wine

0.75 oz of BlueCoat Gin

dash of Orange bitters

I recommend stirring over the rocks than straining into a coup glass.

Optional Garnish: Orange Peel

Oh My Tonic!


**Tammy Taylor Manager and head bartender at Church & State in Washington, D.C.**

By Tammy Taylor

I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with liquor, and it’s not just a small obsession. It’s huge and not just with drinking it. Though, I do not deny that’s part of it. I’m obsessed with what I can do to make it different, well, better. So when presented with a recipe to make my own tonic at Church&State, I jumped on it.

Originally, tonic was used for medicinal purposes to ward off against malaria in South America and Africa. The “tonic” was made by soaking the bark from the South American cinchona (kenKEEnah) tree to extract quinine, a natural prophylactic against malaria, and then drinking it as a tea. The quinine tonic was so bitter that eventually the British added lime and gin to tame the bitterness of the drink…so the tonic came first and the gin was the mixer! Thus the beloved “gin and tonic” was born.

But the tonic we drink today is a far cry from what the British drank back then. The first commercial tonic was produced in Britain in the 1850s by adding soda water and sugar. In 1953, Schweppes Beverage Co. brought to the American market. The quinine in the American tonic is produced by a chemical extraction; not by soaking tree bark. It also contains a lot less quinine because the U.S Food and Drug Administration limits the amount of quinine to 83 parts per million. This dilution, along with the high fructose corn syrup that is added, makes it a lot less bitter. It can be argued that American tonic produced for bars on the rail is so far removed from the original formula that it shouldn’t even be called tonic water.

How awesome was it to find out that it was not only better, but easy to make. I found the cinchona bark online without much trouble so I bought it and began experimenting. The earthiness you get is amazing and I, a non-bitter drinker, don’t even mind how bitter and sour it tastes. I haven’t had a gin yet that hasn’t been complimented by my new obsession. I have since modified the recipe and created the “tonic of the month” for our bars. So far, I’ve steeped in lavender, rose hip and the current tonic is hibiscus.

Here is a basic tonic recipe from Imbibe Magazine that you can try at home. If you’re not feeling that adventurous, come to Wisdom or Church&State to give my fresh tonic of the month a try.

4 cups water
3 cups pure cane sugar
3 Tbsp. quinine (powdered cinchona bark)
6 Tbsp. powdered citric acid
3 limes, zested and juiced
3 stalks lemongrass, roughly chopped

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil until the sugar dissolves, then turn the heat down to low. Add the quinine, citric acid, lemongrass, lime zest and lime juice. Stir well and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the powders are dissolved and the syrup is thin and runny. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain out the large chunks through a colander, then filter through cheesecloth or coffee filters to refine. This step can take a while—and many filters—as the bark is a very fine powder, so be patient.

*Gintender’s drunken wisdom*

If you are a fan of gin and tonics and you are sipping a super premium gin opt for a better tonic. It makes a dramatic difference! Schweppes is a solid choice as are artesian products such as Fevertree or Q tonic out of Brooklyn. If you are in a bar and have no options other then harsh rail tonic, consider choosing a heavier juniper London dry style gin versus a “New Western style” softer juniper spirit, that will be able to stand up to the tonic.

Bloomspot Mixology Class and Tasting Deal

Sign up for Church & State’s Bloomspot Mixology Class or Tasting deal!

Only $75 for two people ($150 value) for a mixology class and $99 for cocktail tasting and bites for four people.

If you have already purchased a class or tasting, please pick a date from the list below and then email to register a time.

Should you have any questions, please contact

Available Dates/Times:

Saturday, September 20 (Tasting only)
Wednesday, September 19
Thursday, September 20
Friday, September 21 (Tasting only)
Saturday, September 22 (Tasting only)
Tuesday, September 25
Wednesday, September 26
Thursday, September 27
Friday, September 28 (Tasting only)
Saturday, September 29 (Tasting only)


Fernet Branca: Not for the faint of heart…or stomach

Photo by Flickr user brad.coy

It’s often referred to as the “liqueur of Hades”.  To say it’s an “acquired taste” is a vast understatement. even dubbed it “the trendy drink that makes you gag.”

So, what the hell is it and why would anyone want to drink it?

Already quite popular in Italy and parts of Europe, Fernet Branca continues to grow in popularity in the US (mainly in San Francisco).  It’s even the national drink of Argentina.

As you might have guessed, Fernet isn’t for everyone.  Its over 40 different kinds of herbs and spices offends many palates with extreme bitterness.  But those who can stomach it, swear by it.

At the Gintender, we’re excited because it is an American bitter liqueur…and bitter liqueurs are excellent when trying to find balance in a cocktail that has sweet notes. It provides yet another tool to create a spectrum of All-American cocktails are Church & State.

The Fernet recipe, of course, depends on the distillers recipe, but some of the more common ingredients include:  myrrhrhubarb,chamomilecardamomaloe, and especially saffron,[1] with a base of grape distilled spirits, and coloured with caramel colouring. Its smell and taste is often described as “black licorice-flavored Listerine”.

Sound appetizing?  Because Fernet, for those who can take it, is most commonly used as a digestif.

However, there does seem to be an American Fernet trend beginning to emerge. As aforementioned, San Franciscans are quite taken with the drink. But instead of enjoying a room temperature  glass after dinner, they prefer a nice shooter with a ginger ale chaser.

As this article suggest, Fernet Branca is even becoming a more popular choice for a round of shots than Jameson for many bartenders.

Todd Leopold, master distiller from Leopolds Bros, describes the distillation process for Leopold’s version of Fernet:

Our Fernet is the most bitter type of Amaro (Italian word for bitter) that is prepared by steeping various botanicals, with a large proportion of bitter roots, in spirit.

Our Fernet, so far as we are aware, is the first of its kind produced in America since well before Prohibition.

We start by placing a flight of bitter roots and herbs, including Bitter Aloe, Gentian Root, Sarsaparilla Root, and Ginger Root, into cheesecloth for steeping. We then add the more aromatic portion of flowers, including Rose Petals, Elderflower, Chamomile, and Honeysuckle, which lends depth and an oily finish. To this we augment the Fernet with several varieties of mint, including a uniquely American touch: Spearmint, to lend our Fernet a bracing, cooling finish.

The question here is, is it right for you?

If it is, it’s rumored to be blissful.

If it’s not…well…Bleh!

New Year’s Gala at Church & State


Tickets cost $250 for two people  and space is limited.  Only 50 people will be allowed in before midnight.

Price includes cocktail course served throughout the night and appetizers (You will have open access to FruitBat, but only people who purchase tickets may enter Church & State before midnight.)
Choose between two pre-paid cocktail courses for you and your guest.

Choose your Cocktail Destiny: Sterling or Onyx.

Each course will be served every 40 minutes, additional cocktails/beer/wine may be purchased ala carte.

The Sterling Flight consists of a medley of vodka, gins, and moonshine made west of the Mississippi. The classic vodka martini, the chuck yeager, pritchards white lightning moonshine, gin rickey, the moscow mule and the original mai tai. Bonus cocktail is the champagne toast.

The onyx course boasts american sweethearts: whiskey,boubon and rye. The manhattan, the old fashioned, sazerac, the gilda, dark and stormy, and the washingtonian. Bonus cocktail is the champagne toast.

Doors open at 7:30 pm. First course will be served at 8:20 pm and every 40 minutes after until midnight.

Evening includes buffet from 7:30 pm until the end of the night.

Purchase tickets below:



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