Deep Blue Sea

Several years have passed since we mixed up a cocktail by Portland’s own Andrew Boggs called the South Side Rickey. That recipe was one of several Spring 2014 cocktails from the menu of Trifecta Tavern that appeared in the Oregonian after the bar started their second season. We noted another from that article and we are finally getting around to trying it. This cocktail is a unique, floral Martini that is just what we love—a simple, spirit-driven sipper.

We often opt for our go-to Vesper cocktail, not because it is the image mascot for the site, but because we love it. It is strong, slightly bitter and dry, with a clarity that allows something as simple as a lemon peel garnish to play an important role. With the Deep Blue Sea, we have a similar sensation, but we also have violets. Crème de Violette is an uncommon ingredient, and although it appears in the Aviation cocktail (a true classic), we wish that it was used more often.

Deep Blue Sea
1.5 oz Aviation gin
1.5 oz Cocchi Americano
.25 oz Crème de Violette

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The original recipe specifies Aviation gin—a bottle we usually have in our inventory. But at the moment, the only Aviation we have on hand is their Old Tom expression—an aged product with a slightly different historical aim. We immediately forgave ourselves and went with another local favorite. You can get away with another gin provided you are mindful of your selection’s flavor profile. You want a modern, American style that emphasizes floral, citrus and spice, not juniper. We tried Freeland Spirits which is lovely. One of the reasons Aviation is specified is because it works so well with the violet liqueur—something you might guess given its namesake cocktail. Your mileage may vary, just don’t sub with a brand that is too far afield if you want to have an honest attempt at trying this well-intentioned cocktail recipe.

At first glance the color of this drink seems off, given the name. There is no denying a darkening effect from the crème de violette, but Cocchi Americano has a yellow tinge—the direct complement of purple. This combination leads to a somewhat monochromatic result which is fine, and possibly intentional given the way color is filtered the deeper you descend into the ocean. Only with oblique lighting do you see that a lovely purple hue prevails. We probably shouldn’t care about the color, but with a name like Deep Blue Sea, it seems relevant.

Setting color aside, it offers a surprising sip. With a modifier paired in equal proportion to the base, you might expect this to be overly vermouth-y, but Cocchi Americano does not have the dry oxidized overtones of a French aromatized wine. Think of it as a bitter (perhaps more authentic) version of Lillet Blanc. So, rather than tasting like a Martini made by your neighbor who doesn’t drink them, this recipe gets away with it. In fact it comes across as somewhat sweet—probably because it is. The violet liqueur definitely adds sugar, but a healthy lemon twist and the spray of oils over the surface of the drink as you prepare it helps to offset the sugar somewhat.

We always enjoy the floral aspects of this liqueur, and paired with lemon—even if it is just the oils from the garnish—keeps it from tasting like soap or perfume. No question, this drink should be served ice cold, so chill your glass in the freezer beforehand and give it a good stir with plenty of ice before straining.

If you like the Vesper but want to try a Martini with something a little different, you can do a lot worse, especially on a rainy day. We think it is just the ticket for a ride from the kitchen counter to the living room, even if our comfy chair has us longing for an ocean view.

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