It’s 3 o’clock on a Tuesday and you can’t wait to get out of work. The sky is grey, you’re tired of looking at spreadsheets, and you don’t know if you’re hungry or what. Your bestie calls on your office line. Hey friend, are we vermouthing later?
Vermouthing? What’s the hell’s he talking about? You don’t know because you are American and Americans are the worst people on Earth. Don’t feel bad. I’m American too. But I know what to drink and when to drink it and at 5 o’clock I’m meeting my BF down the street at the bar and ordering an Axta Blanco on the rocks with a twist. The perfect evening sipper, it’s low in alcohol so it won’t fuck me up before dinner, it’s loaded with botanicals that are good for my soul, and it’s also very, very tasty.
Vermouth is wine aromatized with botanicals. The first vermouths predate any other distilled spirit around. There is evidence of this all over the world from China to the Amazon where they were drinking vermouth for pleasure and where it was thought to have healing properties. The rise of cocktail culture in U.S. is largely credited to vermouth. Its magic effects on classic spirits gave emerging bartenders plenty of ideas. In fact, the original Manhattan was actually 2 parts vermouth to 1 part gin. (Sorry, I hate exclamation points.) While at some point martini drinkers started thinking it was chic to forgo the vermouth, its role is still deeply entrenched in the cocktail world and distillers everywhere are mining old recipes for new blends.
In addition to the classic houses in Europe, there are a lot of domestic producers experimenting with the category like Brovo Spirits in Washington who collaborate with bartenders to form new products, and Kelley Fox who salvaged grapes from the California fires by turning them into a transcendental small batch vermouth. We’re not talking cheap five dollar swill whose names we will not mention. We’re talking about fine sipping vermouths in all colors that are meant to be enjoyed on their own. The Italians know this. The Spanish know this. There are entire bars dedicated to just vermouth in London. So, catch up people. You are missing out.
Here are some favorites that we have in the store:
Not convinced? It’s cool. Keep mixing vermouth into your cocktails, but make it a good one. The end product is only ever as good as the ingredients that go in it. My favorite vermouth cocktail is the Adonis—because not only do I love vermouth but I love sherry. Maybe more than I love vermouth, but I won’t get into that right now.
1 part dry sherry
1 party rojo vermouth
Stir with ice in a mixing glass, strain into a chilled coupe
Garnish with a twist