Perk up your Summer with Vermouth!

7/10/2009 -

At this time of year I love to add ice-cold cocktails to my arsenal of refreshments.  A key ingredient in many cocktails is the often over-looked Vermouth.   

Luckily for enthusiasts there is a recent movement to revisit some of the great vermouth houses of old.

Vermouth is an herb-infused and fortified wine that has enjoyed a long history, most famously in the gastronomic hot-beds of France and Italy, although its roots are believed to be in Greek medicinal spiritsThe highest quality vermouths start as clear wines; herbs and botanicals are added to macerate with the wine, and then grape spirit and sugar are added.  This method was first used to make undrinkable wine more palatable, but people began to grow accustomed to the mixture and to appreciate the flavor profile.  In more recent history Vermouth production was well suited to areas that contain alpine meadow-like characteristics because it allows producers to be close to many of the herbs and botanicals that give their spirits unique characteristics. 

A great example is Dolin, located in Chambery, France, and the recipient of the only Appellation d' Origine for Vermouth.  This brand is a new arrival on this side of the Atlantic, but the house was founded in 1821.  Dolin produces three vermouths that are presently available in the states:  “Dry”, “Blanc”, and “Rouge.”  The Dry and Rouge styles are familiar, but the Blanc provides an interesting off-dry style that provides a very interesting variation on Martinis and other classic cocktails. 

Dolin has a long history, but another popular brand claims a greater legacy.  Antonio Benedetto Carpano is considered the father of red Vermouth in the style that we know today.  His recipe was concocted in Turin in 1786, and a version of that recipe is still available on the market.  This is the Carpano “Vermouth Antica,” which for many has been the Italian vermouth that all others are judged against.  Also available from Carpano is the “Punt e Mes”, or “point and a half”, which has quinine added to give the vermouth a pleasing bitter finish. 

With either of these producers I am sure that imbibers will find a pleasing and balanced artisanal product.  Vermouth provides a variety of applications through cocktail creation, and is also brilliant when enjoyed before or after dinner.  John Rankin

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