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Find out how to Make a Poet’s Dream, the Cocktail That Makes a Vodka Martini Worthy of Verse

Find out how to Make a Poet’s Dream, the Cocktail That Makes a Vodka Martini Worthy of Verse

There’s a problem with Vodka Martinis. To be clear, so called “mixologists” like me have been griping about Vodka Martinis for years, so I’ll offer up front that this problem has nothing to do with the liquid, the people who love it, or the pretentious and often-made argument that Martinis are “supposed” to be with gin. No, this problem is more fundamental. It’s about the drink’s very identity.

To explain: There are no classic cocktails with vodka, because almost everything that we think of as a “classic cocktail” was invented between 1800 and 1919 or so, a period in which vodka was simply absent from the western world. Vodka, as you know, tastes like nothing, so when it makes its move in the 1940s, it does so with a few original drinks that pair it with big, bold flavors to compensate for the spirit’s neutrality, like the Bloody Mary and the Moscow Mule. Over the decades, though, vodka started to Single White Female gin, ultimately replacing it in its own friend circle: The Tom Collins, always a gin drink, now morphs into the Vodka Collins. Same with the Vodka Gimlet and the Vodka French 75. And they’re all pretty good, because they share the stage with big, bold co-stars, like lemon juice and sugar.

When vodka comes for the Martini, it has a problem. A Martini is gin and dry vermouth, the latter being whisper-subtle and wine-based, infused with botanicals that match the botanicals of gin, which is why Martinis work. Vodka, on the other hand, has no such botanicals—indeed, it has nothing at all—and so vodka and vermouth just taste like boozy, diluted vermouth, which is actually pretty unpleasant. This is the aforementioned identity problem: Because an actual Vodka Martini is by definition vodka with a healthy dose of dry vermouth, but that’s something that no one actually wants.

So what to do? You could do what most people do, which is order a Vodka Martini “extra dry” (no vermouth) and shake it within an inch of its life, which makes an extremely cold and snappy drink that many millions of people enjoy. Or you could introduce an ingredient, like a mediator, to help the vermouth and vodka get along, something that can give the Vodka Martini a gentle nudge back towards greatness.

Meet the Poet’s Dream, a Vodka Martini with a subtle kiss of spiced sweetness from the French herbal liqueur Bénédictine. Fittingly, the original Poet’s Dream is a gin drink, from the 1931 Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Days by Albert Stevens Crockett, but it’s the vodka version that really stands apart. It’s the smallest touch of Bénédictine—80 proof, honey-sweet, with cinnamon, nutmeg, citrus, and herbs—that brings the whole thing together, the cocktail dry and bracing, but charmed by the botanicals of the vermouth, which find a dancing partner in the spices of the liqueur. It’s a Vodka Martini without an identity crisis, one that doesn’t fight against its namesake, and that can embrace its full self.

Poet’s Dream (Vodka Version)

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 0.75 oz. dry vermouth
  • 0.25 oz. or less Bénédictine

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, add ice, and stir for 10 to 15 seconds (if you have small ice) or 25 to 30 seconds (if you have big ice). Strain off the ice into a cocktail glass or coupe, and garnish with a lemon peel.


Vodka: My standard line here is that it doesn’t matter much what type of vodka you use for your cocktails. I’m not refuting that, exactly, but I will say that it has never mattered more: This is a vodka drink. Make sure to use your favorite one. If I could have my pick, I’d choose the St. George A.P.V., the winner of our blind vodka taste test, which has faint and pleasant apple and pear notes that would complement the honey sweetness of Bénédictine perfectly. 

Dry Vermouth: What we want out of our dry vermouth here is a faint botanical character, so the richer new-wave ones are out (they’d be good if you’re using gin, but not vodka). I’d go with Dolin Dry, or the old stalwart Noilly Pratt Dry.

Bénédictine: Bénédictine has a unique and inexplicable ability to bind together other flavors and is absolutely perfect here. It has lots of great uses and I don’t see much of a reason not to insist upon it. Note that Bénédictine is different from B&B, which is a 60/40 mix of Bénédictine and Brandy that the company began producing in the 1930s. The bottles look the same, which makes things difficult, but you should aim for the original.

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Source: Robb Report

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