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 It was originally made to serve straight as an apéritif or a digestif.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

3 DIY cocktails to toast the end of summer

Kids are going back to school. Municipal pools have closed. But summer isn’t really over. A few minutes in the merciless 100-degree sun will tell you that summer is still in full swing. A look at the calendar will tell you that summer cocktails are still in fashion until Wednesday, September 23.

These sweltering afternoons and balmy evenings call for something cold, refreshing, and dare we say, low in alcohol. Here are three less boozy late summer cocktails that are perfect to make at home with alternatives to the typical vodka, gin, tequila, and whiskey drinks.

Sometimes bitter is better

Amaro Lucano Cocktail
Amaro Lucano Cocktail

Liqueurs bring sweet, savory, and bitter twists to summer cocktails. The king of the bitter category is Italian amaro (it literally translates to “bitter”) with Fernet-Branca soaking in the spotlight. These spirits spiked with spices, herbs, roots, fruit, or botanicals are great as either an aperitif or as a digestif, and they are great mixed in cocktails.
Amaro Lucano is made with a family recipe of more than 30 herbs that are dried, crushed, and steeped in alcohol. The recipe, passed down for four generations, makes a lusciously sweet and mildly bitter, caramely liqueur with loads of spice and herb flavors. The sweetness makes it an impeccable companion to fresh fruit. Pureed strawberries and fresh lemon with a bubbly fizz make Amaro Lucano sunshine in a glass. While it clocks in at 28-percent alcohol, it’s got far less kick than vodka. It is available at the Austin Wine Merchant for $28.

Bitter Berry Bash

  • 2 ounces ​Amaro Lucano
  • 1 ounce fresh pressed lemon juice
  • 1 ounce fresh strawberry puree (or use strawberry jam)
  • Splash of dry sparkling wine-style cider, such as Argus Cidery

Shake all ingredients except cider and strain into a cup with ice. Top with sparkling cider. Garnish with a strawberry.

Feelin’ Fino with sherry

Tio Pepe Cocktail
Tio Pepe Cocktail

 

The fortified wine, sherry, might conjure images of old British women in floral dresses and big hats, but it’s actually a sophisticated wine worthy of sipping or mixing in your next cocktail. Hailing from Andalucía on the Southern coast of Spain, sherry is made with the cool breath of the Atlantic, a cozy blanket of yeast, and a slow ride through complex system of barrels. The result is an absolutely unique wine that leaves an indelible impression, just like the Spanish seaside.

Try the Mr. Pepe cocktail, a riff on a traditional mojito using the Tio Pepe fino sherry rather than rum. The dry, light-style sherry is great in summer cocktails. It only has 15-percent alcohol and the bottle will keep forever even after you open it. It’s a natural complement to seafood and a dip in the pool. Pick it up at Spec’s for $18.

Mr. Pepe
Developed by Yamasaki Tsuyoshi, Star Bar, Tokyo

  • 1.5 ounces Tio Pepe fino sherry
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1.5 ounces soda water
  • 6 pieces of lime
  • 12 mint sprigs

Crush the six lime pieces and mint sprigs in a rocks glass and add all of the liquid ingredients. Fill the glass with crushed ice and garnish with a mint leaf.

Invigorating vermouth

Carpano Bianco Summer Spritz
Carpano Bianco Summer Spritz

 

Vermouth is one of the best-known aperitif wines with its heavy connection with popular cocktails like the Manhattan and martini. It’s also delightful served neat or over a smack of ice to get that appetite revved up with bittersweet goodness.

The first documented vermouth recipe was made by Italian distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano in 1786.

Carpano Bianco is still made with a similar recipe in Sicily and Romagna with Trebbiano, chardonnay, and Cortese grapes, along with herbs, roots, and barks giving it mischievous citrus and spirited spice flavors. Mix this 15-percent wine with orange soda in our Summer Spritz. This is super easy to make and even easier to love. Light as a summer dress and refreshing as Barton Springs, grab a bottle at Total Wine for $21.

Summer Spritz

  • 2 ounces Carpano Bianco vermouth
  • ​San Pellegrino Aranciata sparkling orange soda

Fill a tumbler or high ball glass with ice, add the Carpano Bianco, and fill with the San Pellegrino. Add a wedge of citrus for garnish.

Kickback, relax, and let the last rays of summer soak in with a fantastic drink.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: I was provided samples of each of the three products featured at no charge.

What are you drinking?