Alessio Vermouth Bianco Alessio Vermouth Bianco

Why drink vermouth?

Vermouth is a light, refreshing drink that is perfect to sip during summer. It has depth and complexity that make it a delight to drink on its own, and make it an intriguing ingredient in excellent cocktails.

How do I drink vermouth?

Let’s burn down the tired trope that vermouth is only for old ladies, or only a mixer for cocktails. It’s true that vermouth is great in a lot of fantastic classic cocktails like the Negroni (Happy Negroni Week!), the Martini, and the Manhattan, but it is delicious all on its own. It was originally made to serve straight as an apéritif or a digestif. That’s exactly how you should drink it this summer.

Chill it. Pour it. Drink it.

If you want vermouth in a “cocktail” without the fuss, pour it on ice and serve it with an orange twist. Or add a little soda water to it.

Let’s get started. Go into your liquor cabinet and fish out that dusty, half-empty bottle of vermouth and throw it away. Now run out and grab a new bottle of fresh vermouth and make it a go-to drink for the summer.

What is vermouth?

The reason you should throw away a perfectly good bottle of vermouth that is half full is because vermouth is made with wine. You would never drink a glass of wine after leaving an open bottle sitting around for a few months, would you? It loses its flavor and gets oxidized. Vermouth lasts a little bit longer than normal wine, because its fortified with spirits to stabilize it. Once open, keep vermouth in the fridge and it will retain its flavor for about three weeks. Consider buying 350 ml bottles if you don’t want to waste any.

Vermouth gets its distinct flavor because the wine is flavored with the Artemisia herb, aka wormwood, the main flavoring ingredient in absinthe. Each type of vermouth has its own blend of other aromatic herbs in a range of dry to sweet styles.

Which vermouth should I drink?

Vermouth has grown popularity in the U.S. in recent years, making it easier to find high-quality brands at bars, restaurants, and shops. A few good brands to look for include Primitivo Quiles and Yzaguirre from Spain; Dolin and Nouilly Prat from France; and Carpano, Carpano Antica, Cinzano, and Cocchi from Italy.

Alessio Vermouths from Tempus Fugit Spirits

Lately I’ve been diggin’ Alessio Vermouths made in Italy. This family of vermouths from the Tempus Fugit Spirits company are fairly new to Texas, but incredibly easy to find at most wine shops and good bars around the state.

Started in 2001 by Peter Schaff in Europe and John Troia in California, Tempus Fugit Spirits is all about recreating historic recipes for classic spirits and liqueurs. Schaff developed a fondness for absinthe during many visits to Paris for business. After the re-legalization of absinthe in the U.S. in 2007, Schaff and Troia started working on absinthe recipes in Europe. They created Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe and grew the portfolio from it to include Amari, such as Gran Classico Bitter, liqueurs, and the Alessio Vermouths.

Recently the brand ambassador for Tempus Fugit took me on a tour of the company’s vermouth.

Alessio Vermouth Bianco

Alessio Rosita Cocktail Alessio Rosita Cocktail

 

This sweet white Italian vermouth just landed in Austin in time for summer sipping. It is made with fortified white wine base in a similar style to the original vermouth blanc from Chambéry, France, where Dolin is made, but with a higher thujone levels from the wormwood. Made in Piedmont, Italy, it has lively citrus and grapefruit, sweet spices, mild bitterness and a lovely sweetness on the finish. Kick back with this “Vino di Moda” (fashion wine) chilled in a white wine glass or mixed in classic cocktail. It has 18% ABV and sells for about $23 for a 750 ml.

We had it in a version of the Rosita Cocktail:

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 1 ounce Alessio Vermouth Bianco
  • 1 ounce Gran Classic Bitter

Alessio Vermouth di Torino Rosso

Alessio Vermouth di Torino Rosso Alessio Vermouth di Torino Rosso

 

Made with a classic di Torino recipe from the late 19th century, this vermouth is made with Trebbiano wine from the Piedmont region of Italy, and both Grande and Petite Wormwood grown in Piedmont as the main bittering agents, along with more than 25 herbs, roots and spices. Alessio Vermouth di Torino Rosso is created with an elaborate production method to create extractions of various roots and herbs like cardamom, coriander and cassia cinnamon. It is absolutely delicious on its own with bright citrus, complex herbal flavors, fig, Christmas cake, and a fun balance of sweet and bitter. Enjoy this “Vino di Lusso” (luxury wine) on its own or with a splash of soda. The 17% ABV sells for about $24 for 750 ml.

Alessio Vermouth Chinato

Alessio Vermouth Chinato Alessio Vermouth Chinato

 

This vermouth is made with the same 19th century recipe, the same wine base, the same 25 other herbs, including Grande and Petite Wormwood, but it differs in that it also has the addition of Cinchona bark. Cinchona is bitter source of quinine, and the same bittering agent that was used in the original Kina Lillet and also in Cocchi Americano. It gives Alessio Vermouth Chinato a super complex flavor with bright lemon, sweet caramelized almonds, chocolate, cola nut, and raisin flavors. It’s great in any cocktail that calls for sweet vermouth. I prefer to sip this vermouth straight with hard cheeses. It’s amazing. The 16.5% ABV vermouth sells for around $25 for a 750 ml.

Alessio Vino Chinato

Alessio Vino Chinato

Vermouth made from red wine is relatively rare, but that is exactly what we have with Alessio Vino Chinato. It is made with Nebbiolo d’Alba grapes grown in the Piedmont region of Italy, Cinchona bark, but no Wormwood. What does it taste like? Think of an amazing Barolo with firm tannin, and bold red and black fruit flavors, and then add a dollop of sweetness, herbal flavors, and bitterness. This is an elegant aperitif sipper before a meal, or as a digestif with a bit of dark chocolate after dinner. It is new to Austin in the past month, so go about and grab a bottle for about $30.

Make vermouth your go to drink this summer.

Disclosure: I was provided with samples for review at no charge.

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Derby Day isn’t complete without the “official” drink of the Kentucky Derby, the mint julep. It has been served to the winning rider and relished by fans for more than a century.

The first time I tasted a mint julep was in the infield at the Kentucky Derby in 1993. I was hooked. The tradition. The ceremony. The sweet bourbon and fresh mint melting away my cares. I made a point of going back to Churchill Downs several years in a row to collect the commemorative glasses that the juleps are served in.

While I won’t be in Louisville for the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby this Saturday, you can bet I’ll be sipping on a mint julep. I have my favorite recipe, but I decided to ask a couple experts to share their favorite recipes.

Mark Shilling, co-founder of Revolution Spirits, makers of Austin Reserve Gin, and Clay Inscoe, chef, mixologist, and distilling scientist at Treaty Oak Distilling both provided variations on the classic recipe. I kept their recipes in-tact, but swapped out their preferred bourbon or whiskey for an expression of Four Roses Bourbon.

Here are three great mint julep recipes for you to enjoy during the Kentucky Derby.

Classic Mint Julep Recipe Classic Mint Julep Recipe

What Are You Drinking? Classic Mint Julep

  • 3 ounces Four Roses Bourbon Yellow
  • .5 ounce mint simple syrup
  • Fresh mint sprigs
  • Crushed ice

Mint simple syrup: prepare simple syrup by boiling 2 cup of granulated sugar in 2 cup of distilled water for 5 minutes. Stir it constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn. Set aside in a covered container to cool with a handful of fresh mint tossed in (6 to 8 sprigs). You can prepare it ahead of time and refrigerate it overnight.

Mint julep: Make each julep by filling a silver julep cup (or an old-fashioned glass if you don’t have the silver cup) with crushed ice, add the mint simple syrup and three ounces of Four Roses Bourbon. Stir like a demon until the glass frosts. Top it off with more ice and stir again before serving. Pop in a sprig of mint and serve. Drink, repeat.

A little about the whiskey: Four Roses Bourbon Yellow is a straight bourbon whiskey made by blending   10 of the distillery’s recipes. It’s smooth and easy going and a good choice for cocktails. 80 proof, $19.99.

Bold Mint Julep recipe Bold Mint Julep recipe

Shilling’s Bold Mint Julep

Mark likes a really straight-forward julep just a hint of sweetness. He wants to taste the whiskey.

  • 3 ounces Four Roses Single Barrel (Mark’s preference is Jack Daniels)
  • .25 ounce mint simple syrup
  • Fresh mint sprigs
  • Crushed ice

Prepare the mint simple syrup the same as above. Start each julep by muddling 5 or 6 mint leaves in the bottom of a julep cup or an old-fashioned glass, fill it with crushed ice, add the dash of mint simple syrup and a healthy pour of Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon (3 ounces is a reference point). Stir with potency until the glass frosts. Top it off with more ice, stir again, garnish with a sprig of mint and serve.

A little about the whiskey: Four Roses Single Barrel has more swagger weighing in at 100 proof. It’s a good sipping whiskey that doesn’t need to be muddied up with cocktail fixins. $39.99.

Red-Handed Bourbon Mint Julep. Photo courtesy of Proof and Cooper Red-Handed Bourbon Mint Julep. Photo courtesy of Proof and Cooper

Ko Julep

Clay’s recipe is a little more involved, which is to be expected because this guy is a serious chef and a mad scientist in the distillery. His Ko Julep recipe is inspired by the islands of Thailand. (Ko means island in Thai.)

Blend well, pour over full cup of crushed or shaved ice, garnish with lime wheel and fresh mint sprig

Ko syrup:

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups white sugar

Bring mix to a light simmer and make sure all sugar is fully dissolved. Then add the following ingredients to the hot simple syrup:

  • 12 sprigs of fresh mint (roughly chopped, stem and all)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (roughly chopped)
  • zest of 2 limes
  • 50 grams fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 12 sprigs of Thai basil (roughly chopped, stem and all)

Cover pot and let aromatics steep for 1 hour, strain syrup, chill and mix with spirit

A little about the whiskey: Four Roses Small Batch is made with a blend of four of the distillery’s bourbon recipes. It’s a mellow whiskey with spicy flavors along with sweet, fruity aromas and hints of sweet oak and caramel. It’s tasty on its own and a decent stand in for the excellent Red-Handed Bourbon. 90 proof, $29.99.

Disclosure: I was provided samples of all three bottles of Four Roses Bourbon at no cost.

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