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In the Spirit

Mind Your Vermouth

And reignite your passion

By Tony Cross

If you ask any of my friends or family about their knowledge of vermouth, their answers would more than likely fall into three categories.

The first group enjoys vermouth: They make their own cocktails at home on a weekly basis; they more than likely have their favorites when it comes to the subject of fortified wine; their vermouth is refrigerated and not spoiled.

The second group kind of knows about vermouth, and they might have a bottle of sweet vermouth in their kitchen, but it’s been collecting dust on their little liquor shelf ever since the pandemic lockdown when, on a whim, they wanted to make a Manhattan because they saw it on Mad Men.

In the third group — and this includes someone I personally know — when asked what they know about vermouth, they respond with a terrible French accent and talk like Inspector Clouseau.

Here are a few suggestions to elevate your game from bad first-period French to kick-ass martini. Just remember, once opened, these bottles must stay in your fridge, where they can last a couple of months. As the inspector would say, “Until we meet again and the case is sol-ved.”

Mancino Vermouth (Bianco Ambrato)

This Italian vermouth has gained a lot of popularity in the past decade, and for good reason. I’ve had a few of their different styles and they’re all delicious — on their own and in cocktails. For those who are completely unfamiliar with vermouth, pour this over a glass of ice with an orange wedge and try to pick out what lands on your tastebuds. There are 37 aromatic herbs infused in this soft and dry Trebbiano di Romagna wine, including elderflower, chamomile, mint and orange.

Drink: Pour 3 1/2 ounces over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with orange wedge. You may also add 1/2 to 1 ounce in your gin and tonic.

Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth

This is one of my favorite sweet vermouths for making cocktails. It’s super approachable to drink with huge notes of orange and vanilla. It’s fantastic in a Manhattan, and it’s great on its own over crushed ice with an orange wedge. Grab a bottle and give it a try — just remember to put it in the fridge. If you love it as much as I do in a Manhattan, try the recipe I found in The Infused Cocktail Handbook, by Kurt Maitland.

Drink: Poughkeepsie (courtesy of Laura Bellucci and Belle Epoque)

2 ounces Angel’s Envy Bourbon

1 ounce chamomile-infused Carpano Antica

2 dashes Bitterman’s Boston Bittahs (that’s Boston for “bitters”)

Build ingredients in a mixing vessel, add ice, and stir until cocktail is cold and diluted properly. Strain over ice in an old-fashioned glass.

Chamomile-infused Carpano Antica

1 liter Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth

2 tablespoons loose-leaf chamomile tea

Place ingredients in a large mason jar and let the mixture steep at room temperature for 48 hours. Strain before using or storing in the fridge. For best results, use within two weeks. Please note that Carpano also makes smaller bottles (375 milliliters); it might be a good idea to start small. Just adjust the amount of chamomile tea to 1 tablespoon, instead of 2.

Dolin Blanc Vermouth de Chambéry

This is also one of my favorite vermouths, known for its clean, light, floral style. The Dolin Blanc — a style of bianco, like the Mancino above — is clear and has a touch of sweetness. It goes well with a variety of spirits, such as pisco, gin, blanco tequila and vodka. Infusing chamomile with this bianco makes a great spring drink! Not to be confused with the crisp and classic “dry” that Dolin produces (my favorite in a gin martini), the Dolin Blanc is more fun to play around with using fruits and herbal infusions. Strawberries with this vermouth in a highball cocktail with blanco tequila and sparkling water is easy sipping. I found the following recipe for banana-infused Dolin Blanc in the back of Death & Company’s newest book, Welcome Home. I’ll leave the rest of the drink to your creativity, but white rum is a good place to start.

Drink: Banana-Infused Dolin Blanc Vermouth

200 grams peeled, ripe (but not brown) banana

1 375 milliliter bottle Dolin Blanc vermouth (reserve the bottle)

Thinly slice the bananas. Combine them with the vermouth in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours. Strain through a paper coffee filter, Superbag or fine-mesh sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth, then funnel back into the vermouth bottle and refrigerate until ready to use, up to three months.  PS

Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.