Every month, the online drinkblogging community gets together for a couple of drinks and a bit of a chat, maybe some of those little nibbles if we’re really lucky. The resulting flurry of posts goes by the name of Mixology Monday and the theme for this month’s party – hosted by Cocktailians – is vermouth.
Vermouth represents one of the key innovations in the development of the cocktail. The process of fortifying and aromatizing wine may prefigure the invention of the cocktail, but its incorporation into the new tradition of mixed drinks emerging in the saloons of 1800s America gave rise to classics that are still popular today – a practiced bon viveur needs no introduction to the Manhattan or the Martini. But as the decades have flowed slowly past, vermouth has fallen from grace under the disdainful gaze of such iconic drinkers as Winston Churchill and for one simple fact.
Old people drink vermouth.
In the UK, 90% of vermouth* – particularly dry vermouth (a certain Italian brand of extra dry vermouth if you want to be absolutely specific) – is served long with lemonade over ice to middle-aged women who only go out three times a year: Christmas, New Year and their birthday. This serve has the unfortunate effect of making vermouth seem old and fussy and not fun, which is something of a tragedy because there’s so much complexity and variety within the category.
* This statistic is based purely on anecdotal evidence and is probably entirely untrue.
Of course, if you’re reading this then there’s a good chance that you’re already a fan of the virtues of vermouth – at least in its dry and sweet forms. There is also, however, the forgotten child of the family: white, or bianco. It tends to sit somewhere between the two, exhibiting many of the lighter flavours of extra dry variants combined with the sweetness of a rosso.
For all its qualities, vermouth still lacks the cachet that other liquors carry. It’s rarely seen as the main ingredient in a cocktail or as a respectable drink in its own right. Spirits and liqueurs often go through peaks and troughs of popularity, but vermouth seems to have been in a hole for an awful long time. Opportunities – like this month’s MxMo – to start the long climb up are always welcome.
50ml Cinzano Bianco
15ml St. Germain
10ml La Fée Parisienne Absinthe
15ml lemon juice
1 dash Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
1 whole egg
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and dry-shake briefly. Add ice and shake. Fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. Express a lemon zest over the top and discard.