Vermouth has a long history whose origins can be traced to Turin, Italy where it was created as a medicinal tonic. The name actually comes from the German word for wormwood, Wermut, which is a primary ingredient. Originally, the herbal infusions were prescribed by the local apothecary as a daily elixir; the potent aromatics?would mask the sharp flavor of the malaria-fighting quinine it contained.?But what was once a common curative?has become a backbone to some of my favorite cocktails?Martinis, Manhattans and Negronis, oh my! (Click here for my recipe variation on the traditional Manhattan).
Comprised of fortified wine (either white or red depending on the style and where it is produced), Vermouth is wine infused with grape neutral spirits and a variety of aromatic botanicals like roots, bark, flowers, seeds herbs and spices.
Vermouth?s qualities go way beyond quinine and alcoholic concoctions. It is pure magic. Served over ice with a simple twist of citrus, it becomes either a delicious and elegant apertif or a restorative digestif (calming the digestive system). One sip and you?ll be spellbound, so don?t say I didn?t warn you. And because of the liquor component, it can keep in the refrigerator for a month or so, allowing you to slow down and savor the bottle. Nothing this good should be hurried.
A few captivating Vermouths (explore at your leisure):
Imbue Cellars:?Highly aromatic, with essences of honeyed pear, elderflower, vanilla and classic herbs de Provence that was over your mouth like a refreshing ocean wave. Slightly sweet with a pleasant hint of lingering bitterness that invigorates and satisfies.?Made from Oregon Pinot gris, infused with Clear Creek Distilled Pinot Gris Brandy and a selection of dried botanicals. 16.5% alcohol.
Priorat Natur Vermut:?The Spanish brown Vermouth is more like grown-up dessert: all honeyed herbs, spices, and bitter green tobacco leaves.?I first tasted this at Shift Bar in downtown Portland, where it was listed as ?Drinking Tobacco?. This wine and I? Well, let?s just say it was love at first taste. I was utterly captivated and liked it so much, I took a bottle home.
Grapes from Priorat are infused with indigenous herbs and aromatics. Bottling is done in small quantities; just 700 cases are made every year. Made from?White Carncha, ?Macabeu, Pedro Ximenez (no wonder I love it). You?ll find it hyponotically fragrant, luxuriously smooth and perfectly balanced on the palate, a bittersweet symphony with just enough honey sweetness to compliment the accompanying bitter citrus. A good match with anything salty or savory, especially with appetizers (like olives or clams).
?Hammer & Tongs: P. Andrew Taylor is a brilliant alchemist who has clearly?succumbed to the magic powers of Vermouth. Both way ahead of his time and an old soul, Taylor?has succeeded in harnessing the curative effects of the medicinal tonic used in days of yore and combining that with the restorative elements of cocktails found in the Happy Hour crowds?to produce a potable that crosses over into a whole new dimension.
The Hammer & Tongs Sac’R?sine is pure herbalicious ? The foundation of Pinot Blanc provides both floral and citrusy qualities like grapefruit, green apple, licorice and pine, while the L’Afrique is the polar opposite. Syrah based, it?s inky dark in color and sweet with cherry cola, cedar, bergamot tea and cocoa.