You might think the same, sorry but you're wrong. A quality vermouth is delightful, made by an original ancient recipe or one of the many new craft artisanal concoctions made today, it is a wine to seek out and savor.
The Wine: Vermouth, an aromatized and fortified wine flavored with various botanicals, chilled, on the rocks, or in cocktails $$-$$$
The Food: Appetizers of almost any kind, Italian Antipasti or Middle Eastern Mezze are our choice
The Place: At home, in restaurants and bars, any place you can find the good stuff
It really amazes me that you go into any liquor store and you'll find several brands of red (sweet) and white (dry) vermouth. Ranging in price from $8 to $13 and it is all pretty much crap. Great brands like Martini & Rossi, Cinzano, Noilly Prat, that probably made great vermouth many decades ago that now bottle mass produced muck. Sorry if you buy and enjoy this stuff, but you have really got to try the good stuff.
In an article on SF Gate a few years ago Paul Clark reported in The Truth About Vermouth “"Bartenders are taught to treat (vermouth) like toxic waste," says cocktail historian David Wondrich. Who then goes on to talk about good vermouth.
Taste a great vermouth in a great cocktail like the legendary Negroni, a vermouth like Carpano Anitca. Your mind will be blown.
I was first enlightened when my brother-in-law Dan Slager turned me on to Dolin Vermouth from France. It is so much better and just a few dollars more.
I’ve done many taste tests with friends let them compare Dolin Dry to Noilly Prat, a mass produced French vermouth, and the difference is striking the first is heavenly, delicate and delicious, while the latter is a bit like turpentine in comparison. Same is true with sweet red vermouths.
Suddenly, people want more vermouth in their Martinis.
A recent discovery that I fell in love with is Cocchi Americano, an Italian vermouth made in Asti province of Italy by the recipe of Kina Lillet one of the ingredients of the famous James Bond Vesper Martini. I love it like that and in other cocktails, but I most often sip it as an aperitif with Italian cheeses, olives, artichokes and the like. It also pairs very nicely with Middle Eastern appetizers, Mezze, like hummus, bab ghannouj, feta cheese, chick peas, or tabouleh.
This wine was developed by Giulio Cocchi in 1891. Americano uses gentian root as the primary ingredient for flavoring and bitterness. Cocchi also makes a fabulous sweet red vermouth called Storico Vermouth di Torino. It is made in a the regional tradition with fine Moscato wine that is infused with a secret mix of local and exotic botanicals. You can find both at Astor Wines.
The Antica formula is the original recipe by Antonio Benedetto Carpano, who in 1786 created vermouth in Turin, Italy.
He made his wine by blending carefully selected herbs with a base of very good wine and then sweetened it by adding spirits . The story is that it became so popular that he soon had to produce his wine 24 hours a day to meet the demand.
Wine Enthusiast said “This dark, mysterious vermouth is rich, complex and layered, boasting aromas of mint and other herbs, plums and figs, reminiscent of Madeira. The rich flavors are hard to pin down: cocoa, red wine, almonds, bitter marmalade, hints of spice and toffee all play across the palate, finishing with a bracing bitter edge. This delectable sweet vermouth would shine in a Manhattan.” 95 points.
This recipe has been preserved but is seems when it comes to the most available vermouth the original recipes were compromised over the years or watered down for the American palate they are not all that good.
On a bright note there are many artisanal wine markers creating new vermouths that are quite exciting. We will write about them soon. One we had recently is Vya Sweet Vermouth by Andrew and Laurel Quady, internationally acclaimed Quady Winery i Madera, CA. They specialize in Muscats, Moscato, Port, Sherry, and Vermouth.
I just read that Martini & Rossi has a high end vermouth now.
"One of the most famous vermouth brands, which celebrated its 150th anniversary on 19 September at Lake Como in Italy – there’s some history.
They’ve even made a special edition ‘Grand Lusso’ which has been created from the ground up and barrel aged for eight years which gives it a robust bitterness." Top Ten Vermouths