Top Bartender Liana Oster’s Current Obsession: Vermouth
Liana Oster, head bartender of New York’s Dante, is obsessed with vermouth and shares her recipe for a reversed Martinez.
When Liana Oster took over as head bartender of New York’s Dante in March 2018, it felt like fate.
She’d been working at the beloved Greenwich Village cafe for nearly a year, and had long been fostering an obsession with one of its most popular ingredients: vermouth.
While it’s an essential cocktail element, vermouth is actually aromatized wine and features prominently in the Martini, Manhattan and Negroni.
“My mom’s side of the family is Italian so it was always around me,” says Oster. “When I was bartending in Melbourne years ago, if I wanted to go out with friends and have a night out and I didn’t want to have a big one, I’d have vermouth and soda.”
As her bartending career progressed, her love affair with vermouth blossomed, which she largely credits to its increased accessibility in the bars she tended. And Dante’s focus on low-alcohol cocktails, which often feature vermouth, helped her foster an even deeper appreciation of it.
“I really got into vermouth after I started bartending. [Before that] I knew what it was but I wasn’t fully aware of it,” she says. “Now, vermouth is one of my favorite [ingredients] to work with. There’s a lot you can do with it, which I think is enticing.”
Oster especially loves old-school vermouth brands—two of her favorites are Dolin, which is from France and has been around since the early 19th century, and Italy’s almost 130-year-old Cocchi.
Vermouth has “been around for ages, so there’s a lot of history involved in it, which is pretty exciting,” says Oster. “But I think it’s one of those categories that there’s some cool stuff coming out nowadays as well.”
On her radar are vermouths like Lo-Fi, a California-based brand that makes its sweet and dry versions with local ingredients. Regal Rogue, which is based in Australia, is another recent discovery. Its four offerings—Lively White, Daring Dry, Bold Red, and Wild Rosé—are infused with regional botanicals, including lemon myrtle and quandong.
Dante stocks more than 15 styles of vermouth—and even more brands—for her to choose from when developing drinks.
The bar’s recently launched Martini menu does a particularly nice job of showcasing the breadth and depth of its selection. Half of the recipes on it are what Oster calls “reversed,” meaning the main ingredient is vermouth and the spirits are playing a supporting role.
She particularly likes the Our Martinez, which is a reversed version of the classic. It’s typically made with two-parts Old Tom or London dry gin to one-part sweet vermouth, but in this case, the artisanal Otto’s Athens Vermouth is the main ingredient.
“It’s made from locally sourced ingredients and it’s really floral,” she says. “The vermouth brings this elegance to the drink, which I think is hard to find sometimes.”
- 2 oz Otto’s Athens Vermouth
- 1 oz Old Duff Genever
- 1 teaspoon Maraschino liqueur
- 1 teaspoon Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
- 3 dashes Boker’s Bitters
- 1 dash Angostura Bitters
- .75 oz Acqua Panna Water
- Glass: Coupe
- Garnish: 3 skewered cherries; lemon twist (discard)
- Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice.
- Stir, and strain into a coupe glass.
- Express a lemon twist over the drink and discard. Garnish with three skewered cherries.