Showing posts with label vermouth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vermouth. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

California Vermouth

Vermouth is an aromatic, fortified wine which is flavored with such things as herbs, roots, flowers, bark or practically anything that grows.  It originated in the 18th century as a medicinal aid.  Over the years, vermouth dropped from the pharmacy to the bar, where it became an aperitif and now resides as a necessary component of cocktails like martinis, Manhattans and negronis. 

White vermouth - dry - is sometimes called French, while the red, sweet kind is called Italian.  Those two countries produce most of the vermouth that you'll find on the shelf, although it's also made in Spain and the U.S., as we will see.

T.W. Hollister and Company makes these vermouths using ingredients sourced in Santa Barbara County, whenever possible.  They say they’re perfect for sipping on their own over ice or in your favorite martini on a hot summer night.  They promise that American vermouth is about to have its moment.

Ashley Woods Hollister describes drinking Oso de Oro vermouth as sipping a bit of California history, sourcing the finest ingredients available and wild foraging select native botanicals from her family's historic ranch in Goleta, on the California Coast.

Their first round came out early this year and reportedly sold out in just one week, prompting an expanded production effort.  Both the red and the white are handcrafted in California, reach 16% abv and sell for $35.

Oso de Oro Dry Vermouth is made from white wine and infused with a dozen botanical ingredients, including orange peel, chamomile and rosehip.

Oso de Oro Red Vermouth is infused with 19 botanicals, some of which grow on the family homestead. White wine is infused with herbs, roots and flowers, then finished with caramel, enhancing the texture and imparting a sweetness to balance the wine's natural acidity.  Blood orange, chamomile and hummingbird sage lend fruit-forward and herbal notes to the complex layers.

The dry Oso de Oro dry (white) vermouth smells as herbal as it gets.  Juniper comes across as well as the rosehips, chamomile and orange.  The palate shows a bit more orange peel and is, as promised, dry as a bone.  The sweet (red) vermouth has an herbal nose with a caramel backbeat.  That treat comes through stronger in the sip.  It's negroni-ready. 

I used these vermouths in cocktails made with Beefeater London Dry Gin, which contains botanical elements like juniper, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and seed, licorice, almond, and orris root.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Monday, July 1, 2019

Spanish Vermouth Deserves Larger Role

Vermouth is an aromatic, fortified wine which is flavored with such things as herbs, roots, flowers, bark or practically anything that grows.  It originated in the 18th century as a medicinal aid.  Over the years, vermouth dropped from the pharmacy to the bar, where it became an aperitif and now resides as a necessary component of cocktails like martinis, Manhattans and negronis.

White vermouth - dry - is sometimes called French, while the red, sweet kind is called Italian.  Those two countries produce most of the vermouth that you'll find on the shelf, although it's also made in Spain as we will see.

The Jerez firm of Gonzalez Byass produces a pair of fine and surprising vermouths, dry white and sweet red.  The winery claims the century-old recipes are kept under lock and key.

La Copa Vermouth Extra Seco - the white - is made from 100% Palomino grapes - Fino sherry, actually - which was aged an average of three years in American oak casks in the traditional Solera system.  In addition to the grapes, La Copa Extra Seco includes wormwood, clove, cinnamon and the herb called savory.  Red fruits were added for a "balsamic aftertaste."  Alcohol in the extra dry vermouth tips in at 17% abv and it retails for $25.

This is completely different from every other white Vermouth I've tried.  It is aromatic and flavorful to a fault.  I smelled smoke, I smelled burnt caramel, I smelled thyme, cinnamon, clove, jasmine.  I tasted a burnt caramel or maple sap note.  It was actually one of the more expressive and interesting wines in my experience.  It sure as hell livened up a martini.  Don't spend extra on the gin - let La Copa white vermouth do the work.

La Copa Vermouth Rojo is made from 75% Palomino grapes and 25% Pedro Ximénez variety.  It's produced from Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez soleras, more than eight years old.  As in the Extra Seco, wormwood, savory, clove, and cinnamon are in the mix, along with orange peel and nutmeg in the sweeter blend.  Alcohol sits at 15.5% abv and it retails for $25.

The red vermouth smells of burnt raisins and tangerine.  The palate is sweet with a savory sword cutting down the middle.  The fact that it’s made from sherry is inescapable.

I used these vermouths in cocktails made with Beefeater London Dry Gin, which contains botanical elements like juniper, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and seed, licorice, almond, and orris root.  In a three-to-one gin blend, the white overpowered the gin.  I used the red in a one-to-one blend, which let the gin speak for itself but still allowed the sweet vermouth to contribute amply.  Both are also fine to sip all on their own.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Martini Time

The martini. It's a classic cocktail. It's the classic cocktail. The martini is described as a drink made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. It sounds so simple, and it's so good. It's perfect, already. No vodka martinis for me, please. I love the aromas and flavors of the herbs and botanicals found in gin, and vermouth for that matter.

As for the recipe, I don't adhere to it. I stopped using measuring devices years ago and just eyeball the amounts based on how I feel at the moment. That may not work well in baking, but it does in mixing drinks. The 2:1 ratio of dry gin to dry vermouth is fairly easy to guesstimate. I like a 3:1 mix if I'm making the martini at home, a little heavier on the gin. If I'm out of vermouth, that's okay too. Lots of people go with a much higher ratio, so make it to your taste. The less vermouth, the drier the martini. There's an old joke about drinks so dry there was dust in the urinals, although I've never noticed any evidence of that. I like Hendrick's, a Scottish gin that is infused with rose and cucumber.

As for the vermouth, it should be dry, too. The white kind. Vermouth is actually fortified wine blended with botanicals, like roots, bark, flowers, herbs, and spices. The name is an Anglicization of the German word for wormwood, which has been used in making vermouth. Without the gin, vermouth is a very nice aperitif all on its own. It was once thought to be good for what ailed one, and was used like Granny Clampett used her home-distilled concoction, for "medicinal purposes." I've had Cinzano, Martini and Rossi and Noilly Pratt, and all are fine. I 'm currently using Dolin de Chambery, and it's tasting very nice.

I like to add a dash (or twelve) of bitters to mine. I ran out of Angostura bitters recently and bought a bottle made in New Orleans, Peychaud's bitters are based on the gentian flower, and are similar to Angostura bitters. Peychaud's has a lighter body, a sweeter taste, and more floral aromatics. It's used in making that New Orleans treat, the Sazerac cocktail.

Shaken, not stirred, like James Bond? Experts say no. On TV's "The West Wing," President Bartlett said 007 was not only ordering a bad martini, he was being snooty about it. The shaking, while providing a good way for bartenders to show off, reportedly "bruises" the gin and makes the taste have more of a bite. Can't have that.

Garnish with olives, of course, or a lemon twist if you're afraid of olives. Toss in a splash of olive juice to make it a dirty martini.

Cheers!


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Friday, September 23, 2016

Moruno: Spanish Wine, Food And A Little SBC Vermouth

"Get something you've never tried before," said my wife as we scanned the wine list at Moruno, the Spanish restaurant in L.A.'s Original Farmers Market. It’s a great place, with delightful Spanish dishes and an adventurous wine list that leans heavily in the Iberian direction.

Since most of the plates we get there are new to me, it makes sense to go with a grape that’s under my radar as well. Hondarribi Beltza, f’rinstance. I have heard of Hondarribi's white counterpart, but was unfamiliar with the red version. It comes from a place called Bizkaiko.

Located in Spain's Basque Country, on the nation’s north coast, the Bizkaiko Txakolina region is a collection of more than 80 little communities all growing wine grapes. They make Txakoli wine largely from the white Hondarrabi Zuri grape. This wine is made from the less common red grape, Hondarribi Beltza, grown primarily in the coastal town of Bakio.

Gorrondona Bizkaiko Txakolina Hondarribi Beltza 2015

The waitress at Moruno offered the red Basque wine, and I could not resist. The wine's nose brings dark fruit layered with black olive and bell pepper. Its palate is just as savory, with some earthy blackberry in the balance.

The red Txakoli wine was great with the artichokes a la plancha - salty, caramelized exterior with a tender inner.  The music that was playing in the restaurant during our meal got high praise from my wife - big Eddie Kendricks fan.

But Wait, There's More...

I hate to relegate this to a postscript, but I asked for a taste of a vermouth that Moruno has on the menu. It's made by Steve Clifton of Lompoc's Palmina Wines and comes in both red and white. It's on tap in the restaurant from five-gallon kegs. The label images come from Palmina's Twitter feed.

The organic Vermina vermouth is a collaboration between Clifton and L.A. restaurateur David Rosoff. It’s part of Rosoff’s effort to bring European bistro dining to Southern California. Clifton reportedly digs around himself in Santa Barbara County to find the herbs he uses in the vermouth. According to the L.A. Weekly, the white vermouth is a blend of pinot grigio and malvasia wines, while the  red vermouth adds a touch of Sangiovese for its color.

It has a nose of violets and botanicals and shows wonderful freshness on the palate with a strawberry flavor that is carried along by the slightly medicinal notes of the botanicals.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter



Monday, August 3, 2015

Telling The Story Of Vermouth

Adam Ford has written a book called Vermouth: The Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture. This $24.95 volume tells the strange and fascinating history of vermouth, visits the controversies that have always been a part of vermouth tradition, and offers recipes both old and new to take advantage of the new generation of craft vermouths that are now available. I was given a copy of the book for review.

From Neolithic China to the ancient Silk Roads, to a marketing battle between two Italian producers in the 1700’s to the emergence of a new American vermouth style in the 2010’s, from the boisterous New York City saloons of the 1870’s to the ultra-dry martinis of the 1950’s, the story of vermouth spans the globe and all of recorded history. This book tells the story with style and is a great gift for a lover of mixology as well as a tome that will complete any well-stocked spirits library.

Vermouth is a closer look at a notoriously underrated bar staple. Equal parts fascinating history, useful recipe guide, and gorgeous bar-side display, the book is a treat for anyone who appreciates a well-balanced cocktail. Or a great sipper.

Ford fell in love with vermouth the same way he fell in love with a woman, quite by accident. And the woman was instrumental in his introduction to vermouth, the aromatized wine he discovered while hiking the Italian Alps.

Vermouth is Ford's attempt to write a history of the drink, a history which spans 10,000 years of human events, a history he claims has never been written.

The story's introduction runs through China, the Middle East, ancient Egypt, Persia, the silk routes and the Mediterranean. Then he does a turn on the recent blink of an eye covering the American side of vermouth's history, in which he plays a part by producing a vermouth of his own. Ford also includes a lengthy section of cocktail recipes using vermouth.

It is a drink that offers a lot of surprises as its story unfolds, and a drink that is well worth the time of any wine lover to investigate. This book is a great introduction to a beverage which has much more to it than meets the eye.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Sunday, September 12, 2010

NOILLY PRAT FRENCH DRY VERMOUTH


Noilly Prat French Dry Vermouth

A while back this space contained a few words on sweet vermouth.  To recap, in the vermouth world, red is sweet, it's rosso, it's Italian.  White vermouth is usually dry, and usually called French vermouth.

Noilly Prat is produced in Marseillan, in southern France.  The basic wine is produced using white grapes Picpoul de Pinet and Clairette.  The wine stays in a huge oaken cask for eight months, then is placed in smaller barrels and put outside for a year.  The barrels are then brought inside and the wine rests for a few months, but they're not through yet!  Herbs and spices are then added to the wine every day for three weeks.

First produced in 1813 by French herbalist Joseph Noilly, this is the type of vermouth that's used in martinis and other mixed drinks.  According to an old joke, it can also left out of the martini to insure the drinks are so dry there's dust in the urinals.

Dry vermouth can also be enjoyed straight up chilled.  Try it with a twist of lemon.

The wine is straw-colored with a nose that's somewhat medicinal with honey, almond, nutmeg and pepper showing.  It tastes heavily of the spices - pepper, clove and nutmeg all come through strongly on the palate.  The 18% alcohol level is quite noticeable.

Monday, July 19, 2010

PONTI VERMOUTH ROSSO DI TORINO


Ponti Vermouth

Most folks know vermouth more as something to put in a mixed drink than something to sit and sip.  I tried sipping a red vermouth, and enjoyed it very much.

Vermouth is a fortified wine, usually infused with brandy, and usually running about the same sort of alcohol number as Port.  The Ponti I sipped is 16% abv.  Vermouth can be dry – white vermouth is dry, and it's sometimes called French vermouth – or sweet.  Red, or rosso, is sometimes called Italian vermouth.

Spices and herbs are the big ingredients that give vermouth its unusual and lively character.  Wormwood – the stuff of absinthe – is one of the leading herbs in vermouth.

I sipped it straight up, on the rocks and chilled.  The iced version got diluted quickly and straight up neat it seemed a little brash.  Chilled is definitely my choice for vermouth.  The Italian rosso vermouth I tried is a sweet vermouth about which I can find almost nothing online.  That's usually not a good sign, but in this case the proof is in the tasting.  It comes from Turin, in the Piedmont region.

The color of the Ponti vermouth is a dark, dull red, almost nut brown.  The tinge around the edges is a whiskey brown color.  The nose is a delight: burnt caramel raisins is an aroma I'd like to smell everyday.  On the palate, a very familiar taste appears, one I had a bit of trouble identifying.  It's reminiscent of Blackjack gum, something I may not have had since childhood.  Clove and cinnamon mingle with charred candy flavors and coffee.  The finish reminds me of a marshmallow burnt over a campfire.  There is a lot of sweetness here, but the spice profile puts enough of a bitter spin on it that it does not seem overly sugary.

In Europe – particularly Spain – vermouth is customarily sipped straight up, especially before dinner.  I'm told that many bars have it on tap.  I like it this way, although the intensity of the flavors does become a little burdensome if I drink much more than half my usual wine serving.