You Really Need to be Drinking Vermouth Right Now

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 It was originally made to serve straight as an apéritif or a digestif.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.

What are you drinking?

Celebrate Negroni Week with Texas-made gin

Texas Gin for Negroni Week
Texas Gin for Negroni Week

 

Ah, the Negroni. As sexy as a silky red dress. The folks at Imbibe Magazine and Campari love it so much, they have organized an entire week, Negroni Week, to celebrate it while raising money for charitable causes around the world. This year, the third annual Negroni Week will be held June 1-7 at 33 bars in Austin.

Participating bars will mix Negroni variations and donate a portion of proceeds to a charity of their choice. More than 1,300 bars participated in 2014 and raised more than $120,000 for local charities.

The Negroni cocktail traces its origins to Florence, Italy starting in early 20th century and it has grown to be a staple because of its simplicity and balance of sweet and bitter flavors. The classic recipe is one part each of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. How could you mess that up?

A great way to show Texas pride is to make Negronis with locally distilled gin. We asked Pam Pritchard, owner of The Tigress Pub, to lead us in a blind tasting of five Texas-made brands of gin including Austin Reserve Gin, Dripping Springs Gin, Genius Gin, Moody June Gin and Waterloo Gin. We tried them straight and in identically made Negronis.

Texas Gin for Negroni Week
Texas Gin for Negroni Week

 

Each gin had its strengths and the majority were downright delicious. The Waterloo Gin stood out as a favorite in our blind tasting. When blended in the Negronis, the individual botanical recipes of each gin brought out different flavor characteristics of the cocktail. The Austin Reserve Gin showed the best, with a lovely balance of booziness, herbal, citrus, sweet and bitter flavors all in one glass. Yum.

Negroni Blind Tasting
Negroni Blind Tasting

 

Many bars in town carry one or more of these local gins. In addition, several bars have created special recipes that substitute one or more of the classic ingredients in delicious variations on the Negroni. A few of our favorites include:

  • Rosè Sbagliato at drink.well. a unique twist that includes Amaro Montenegro, rosè vermouth, grapefruit liqueur and sparkling rosè
  • Western Union at East Side Show Room with smoky mezcal, punt e mes and Campari
  • More Cowbell at The Hightower a mixture of Kinsman Rakia, Aperol and Blanc Vermouth
  • The Classic Negronis on tap at Italic
  • Oh Sherry at The Tigress Pub made with Waterloo gin, Contratto vermouth Blanco and Tio Pepe fino sherry
  • The Walking Spanish Midnight Cowboy a delightful concoction of Vago Espadin Elote Mezcal, La Guita Manzanilla Sherry, Bigallet China China Quinquina and grapefruit peel
  • Lemon Verbena gin infused white Negroni at Searsucker
  • Aged Negroni at VOX Table with barrel aged Waterloo Antique Gin, Campari and Cocchi Torino

Participating Bars in Austin:

  • aRoma Italian Kitchen & Bar, 3403 S. Lamar Blvd., Keep Austin Fed
  • Clive Bar, 609 Davis supporting Colon Cancer Coalition
  • CU29, 720 Brazos St., supporting St. Jude’s
  • Cypress Grill, 4404 W. William Cannon, Suite L, Allies Against Slavery
  • District Kitchen and Cocktails,  5900 W. Slaughter Ln. supporting Austin Children’s Services
  • Drink.Well., 207 East 53rd St., supporting Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
  • East Side Show Room, 1100 E 6th St., supporting Austin Pets Alive
  • Four Seasons Hotel, The Lobby Lounge, 98 San Jacinto Blvd. supporting Helping Hand Home for Children
  • Freedmen’s, 2402 San Gabriel St., supporting American Heart Association
  • Half Step, 75 1/2 Rainey St., supporting Health Alliance for Austin Musicians
  • Italic, 123 W 6th St. supporting Sustainable Food Center
  • King Bee Lounge, 1906 E. 12th St. supporting Safe Place
  • Living Room Bar at The W, 200 Lavaca St., supporting HRC Austin
  • Midnight Cowboy, 313 East 6th St., supporting Capital Area Food Bank
  • North Italia, The Domain 11506 Century Oaks Terrace supporting Lucky Dog Rescue
  • Péché, 208 W. 4th St., supporting Humane Society
  • Rhino Room, 1012 E. 6th St. supporting Austin Pet’s Alive
  • Rio Rita, 1308 E. 6th St. supporting Safe Place
  • School House Pub, 2207 Manor Rd. supporting Helping Hands Home for Children
  • Searsucker, 415 Colorado St., supporting Austin Pets Alive
  • Sputnik, 1300 E 6th St. supporting SafePlace
  • Stay Gold, 1910 East Caesar Chavez supporting SafePlace
  • Swift’s Attic, 315 Congress Ave. supporting Austin Disaster Relief Network
  • The Aristocrat Lounge, 6507 Burnet Rd. supporting SafePlace
  • The Bonneville, 202 W. Cesar Chavez St. supporting Austin Pets Alive
  • The Gatsby, 708 E 6th St., supporting St. Jude’s
  • The Hightower, 1209 East 7th St. supporting ColorCancer
  • The Market, 319 Colorado St. supporting Lupus Foundation
  • The Tigress, 100 W. Northloop Blvd. Unit G, supporting Austin Pets Alive
  • The Townsend, 718 Congress Ave., supporting Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM)
  • VOX Table, 1100 S. Lamar Blvd., supporting Austin Pets Alive
  • Whisler’s, 1816 E. 6th St., supporting St. Jude Cancer Research and Children’s Hospital
  • Winflo Osteria, 1315 West 6th St. supporting Barmans fund

If you want to participate in the Negroni Week social media action, use the #NegroniWeek hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.

A version of this story was originally published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: The Tigress Pub provided samples of gin and Negroni cocktails at no charge.

What are you drinking? 

19 Austin Bars Celebrate Negroni Week, June 2 – 8

Negroni at Drink.well. This week, Campari and Imbibe bring us Negroni Week, a celebration of a beloved classic cocktail  — and an easy way to raise money for charitable causes. From June 2-8, 17 local bars will donate $1 from every Negroni sold to a charity of the bar’s choice. Who can beat drinking for a good cause?

“We launched Negroni Week last year, and it was a very spur of the moment idea, but within a couple of weeks had over 120 bars and restaurants around the country signed up to donate $1 of every Negroni sale to the charity of their choice,” said Karen Foley, publisher of Imbibe Magazine. “Based on the response, we decided to get more serious about the idea. We partnered with Campari and the US Bartenders Guild to help build the momentum. We now have more than 1,000 bars signed up from around the world.”

The Negroni is an Italian cocktail invented in the early 1900s and typically is served as an aperitif. A classic Negroni is pretty straight-forward. The sexy red drink is simply equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth served with a twist of orange. It’s the perfect yin and yang of sweet and bitter with a boozy spank.

Participating Austin bartenders will mix up their favorite Negroni variations. To kick off Negroni Week, we share our five favorite spots (and a few recipes, too).

Searsucker Austin
Searsucker is tapping a cask of barrel-aged “rum-gronie,” and will serve refreshing drinks for $12. “We are serving drinks from barrel of rum-groni, which I made by aging El Dorado Rum, Comapri and sweet Vermouth in a 20 liter barrel for two months,” said Tyler Naumann, beverage director. “Rum is my favorite spirit to work with and barrel-aged rum is sweet. It goes well with lime and it’s great to drink when it’s hot outside. I used a virgin, first char barrel for this batch. The barrel calms down the bitterness of the Campari and added a smoky vibe that rounds it out in a cool way.”

Searsucker also offers a traditional Negroni made with Fords Gin and a tequila version called Amargo, using Casamigos tequila. Proceeds will benefit Austin Pets Alive!.

Whisler’s
With a new mezcal bar, Mezcalería Tobalá, perched upstairs from its main bar, Whisler’s enters Negroni Week with smoky Mexican flair. Rather than the traditional gin, mezcal graces the Whisler’s Negroni. Proceeds will benefit Austin Music Foundation.

Drink.Well.
The bartenders at this North Loop neighborhood cocktail den will mix three variations on the Negroni including the classic Negroni, the Negroni Fragola and La Conquistadora with proceeds benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. On Wednesday, Drink.Well. will serve Genius Gin for an all-night happy hour in Negronis for $6 all night.

Negroni Fragola 

  • 1.5 ounce Plymouth Gin
  • .75 ounce strawberry-infused Dolin Blanc vermouth
  • .75 ounce Campari
  • 2 dashes Regan’s Orange bitters

Stirred and served up in a coupe and garnished with a strawberry slice floating on the surface.

W Hotel Austin
The swanky Living Room bars in the W Hotel Austin is mixing three twists on the Negroni cocktail concocted by Living Room bar manager Will Rogers and head libationist Dustin Courtright.

“The exciting thing about Negroni Week is taking a classic cocktail and putting a new spin on it. We’ve loved the Negroni and have had different versions on our menu like a sparkling Negroni with sparkling wine instead of vermouth and also have one with Lillet instead of vermouth. These drinks appeal to the evolving, sophisticated cocktail scene in Austin,” said Rogers. Proceeds from the MacGroni, Innocente and Portuguese Negroni will benefit the Young Chamber of Commerce.

MacGroni

  • 1 ounce The Glenlivet
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce Sweet Vermouth

Served with a lemon twist.

The Bonneville
The Bonneville is introducing The Coqueta, which it describes as a more feminine style Negroni made by substituting Campari with Aperol (slightly less bitter)and topping it with bright and bubbly Prosecco. The drink will benefit PAWS of Austin.

The Coqueta

  • 1 ounce No. 3 Gin
  • 1 ounce Aperol
  • 1 ounce Sweet Vermouth

Top with Prosecco and garnish with bruleed orange slice.

— Update — June 3 additions 

Dozen Street

This new east side bar, located at 12th and Chicon, has thrown its hat into the Negroni ring using the new locally-produced Revolution Austin Reserve Gin. Proceeds will benefit Habitat for Humanity.

A Spirited Revolution

  • 2 ounces Revolution Austin Reserve Gin
  • 1/2 ounce Campari
  • 1/4 ounce St. Germain
  • 3/4 ounce Dolin Sweet Vermouth

Garnish with flamed grapefruit zest.

Participating bars are:

If you want to participate in the Negroni Week social media action, use the #NegroniWeek hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?