A martini without vermouth is just a glass of cold gin. A Manhattan without enough of it is not a Manhattan at all. But this blended and fortified wine is one of the most commonly underappreciated beverages.
Vermouth is made by flavoring wine with a proprietary mix of herbs, spices, flowers and fruit peels. A distilled spirit, usually brandy, is added to make it about 18-20 percent alcohol.
Red vermouth is bittersweet with spice and fruit flavors — think Sophia Loren, voluptuous with a sexy, smoky elegance. The dry white variety is more Lauren Bacall, feminine but tough, with a complex herbal and steely taste.
Seek out brands such as Vya, new from the Quady Vineyards in California; the Italian classic Martini & Rossi; the hard-to-find Carpano Antica Formula, an 18th century recipe; or the French versions, Dubonnet and Lillet.
But beware the dusty, half-filled bottle on the back bar. Once opened, vermouth has a relatively short shelf life before oxidation renders it into something more like vinegar. For best results, keep it in the refrigerator, and use within 10 days of opening. With so many ways to enjoy it, that shouldn’t be a problem. |!|
Paulius Nasvytis is the owner of The Velvet Tango Room.