Exciting Vermouth

by Warren Bobrow

Vermouth here in the New York area has a venerable history.  From hair tonic to stomach digestive and even wound sterilizer, Vermouth followed the immigrants from Europe.  Vermouth was such a great healer that it made its way across the ocean from Europe in satchels and suitcases. 

New York State is undergoing a resurgence of craft Vermouth.  I’m not talking about imitating the styles of old, but creating a new wave.  Vermouth from New York in particular is going places from a flavor perspective that excites me! 

The first of these New York State Vermouth companies are ChanningDaughters Winery in the North Fork of Long Island.  Channing Daughters is handcrafting expressions of Vermouth that mimic the seasonal approach to fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.  The variations are pure and terroir driven.  I am a fan of the variation four, bursting with late summer melon, flowers, herbs and the best reason of all, the quality of the wine. 

I’m consistently impressed by Q-Soda, which is why I included their club soda- made with just a pinch of sea salt, in this fizz. 

The Hedderwick Fizz

Ingredients:

Preparation:

  • Add all ingredients except for the Club Soda and the Bitters
  • Shake really well
  • Pour over one cube of hand cut ice
  • Dribble some Q-Club Soda over the top and dot with the Angostura Bitters

Uncouth Vermouth is the most unique of the bunch in this tasting.  Coaxing deeply individualistic flavors out of wild gathered herbs and roots, Bianca Miraglia is more a conjurer of flavor than producer of mere wines.  Bianca’s wine-based products sing of an inner light.  A spirit dancer rakes across your palate in every sip. Flavors like Beet/Eucalyptus are bursting with an earthy sensibility.  The smoky heat of the long simmered local wine in the Butternut Squash Vermouth frames the beets.  The Eucalyptus element lurking in the background of the Vermouth is stark and enlightening.  This mix in particular hints of fall in each sip.  Fall is one of my favorite seasons in the glass and can be found in this Vermouth.  Drinks with this particular Vermouth necessitate a large dose of an exemplary gin, like Barr Hill Gin from Caledonia Spirits which is hand-crafted in Vermont from raw honey. It plays nicely in your glass along with Bianca’s Uncouth Vermouth.  But which one of her products makes the best mixer? 

I’ll leave that to you.

Bianca makes it crystal clear that mixing her Vermouth is quite the adventure in flavor.  You should treat her Vermouth as something way past your comfort zone. 

Memoir of Fleming Jenkins Cocktail

Ingredients:

Preparation:

  • Add the Barr Hill Gin to the Beet Eucalyptus Vermouth and the 3 Chilies Syrup to a Boston Shaker
  • Fill the Boston Shaker ¾ with large ice
  • Shake for ten or so seconds, hard!
  • Strain over one hand cut ice cube
  • Pour the Q-Club Soda over the top
  • Shake two or three drops of the Fee Brothers Black Walnut bitters over the cocktail to finish

Atsby Vermouth is making a play towards being New York City royalty in the Vermouth business. Deep aromatics and romantic, caramelized fruit flavors in each sip takes the drinker directly to Italy without a plane ticket.  Atsby Armadillo Cake is a very fine, American-made version of one of Europe’s most historic and lush sweet Vermouths, namely Carpano Antica. I love dribbling the Armadillo Cake Vermouth over a Glace Luxury ice cube with nothing more in the glass than air. (OK, I’ll have a lemon zest too.) 

The other variety of Vermouth from Atsby is named Amberthorn.  This style of Vermouth is austere, dry and pungent.  It offers sniffs of saddle leather and ocean-slicked Maine sea stones.  Amberthorn calls out for something quite precious to be mixed with.  It needed something extraordinary, meted out drop by drop.  Amberthorn speaks in hushed tones like whisperers in a library.  Amberthorn has a serious hankering for the ultra-elegant Whisky named Brenne, which is distilled from barley and is a single malt.  There is hardly any of the classic smoke of Scotland’s namesake, yet it is full of life and grip with notes of orange zest soaked in cognac then dipped in 70% bittersweet chocolate.  I’ve included Brenne in this drink because it offers the French take on the perennial classic, the Rob Roy, in a purely modern context. 

The King Perhaps?  

  • 2 oz. Brenne Whisky from France- brilliant stuff really…
  • 1 oz. Amberthorn Vermouth from Atsby 
  • 1 of your home cured cocktail cherries or a lemon zest
  • Aromatic Bitters of your choice

Preparation:

  • I like to prepare the glass with the Bitters after making sure it is very cold. Ice and water works well - pour out and moisten the inside of a Martini glass with Bitters
  • In a Cocktail Mixing glass, fill ¾ with large ice
  • Add the Brenne and the Amberthorn Vermouth
  • Stir until chilled and strain with a Hawthorne strainer into your Martini glass
  • If you choose to use a lemon zest, prep the glass by rubbing it on the inside of the glass before pouring the drink on top. Or pinch it over the drink after being poured into the glass.  It’s really up to you. 

The Armadillo Cake is a trip to Southern Europe in your glass… Weaned on the sumptuous flavors deep inside the twisted minds of the alchemists behind each sip, this Vermouth expression was force-fed travel and culture for decades.  Then it was set free to conquer your discerning palate in cocktails or just alone in a wine glass with a twist of cool lemon zest. 

I’ve used the Armadillo Cake expression in a memorable cocktail woven from a wash of exotic, French distilled Tenneyson Absinthe, pure and historic, FourRoses Single Barrel Bourbon and a home-cured cherry.  Using your own cocktail cherries propels this aromatic drink into one with a very modern approach to purely American dreams. 

Scrivener’s Camp

Ingredients:

  • Wash the Tenneyson Absinthe in a frosty crystal glass, combine ice and water with an ounce of Absinthe then let cool the glass down before making this drink.  You’d better pour the wash into your mouth as not to lose any of the precious liquor (this is purely my recommendation)
  • 2 oz. Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon 
  • 1 oz. Atsby Armadillo Cake Vermouth
  • Hand Cut Ice or one of those gorgeous Glace Luxury ice rounds. 
  • Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters 

Preparation:

  • To a cocktail mixing glass filled ¾ with ice add the Armadillo Cake Vermouth and the Four Roses Bourbon
  • Stir with a long cocktail spoon (it’s not a race, so please don’t bruise the ice!) 
  • Place a hand cut cube or that nice Glace round you’ve been saving in a rocks glass
  • Strain the cocktail over the top and garnish with one of your house-cured cherries
  • Shake a few drops of the Bitter Truth Aromatic bitters over the top and serve

Use a home cured cherry- for God’s sake, throw those red things from the liquor distributor out, it’s easy and it shows you care!

 Cocktail Cherries:

  • 1 pound Washington State Cherries pitted and picked over, you don’t want to break your customer’s or your teeth do you??????
  • 1 -750ml bottle of bourbon – it doesn’t have to be a single barrel effort, just something you would use in your cocktails!
  • Sterilized Mason jars:  boil water to 212 degrees and dip everything you plan to use later in this boiling water (essential)
  • Cover the pitted cherries with the bourbon
  • Cover the Mason jars and refrigerate for a month or so before opening or moving or anything strange.  Hide from others who may want the luscious cherries on their vanilla ice cream. 
  • After you infused the cherries for a month or so, strain them, reserving the liquor in another container or leave it in for further infusion…  

You can use the bourbon and cherry juice in cocktails that call for an infused simple syrup.  You know, something full of flavor!

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