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Vermouth


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#1 slkinsey

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 09:10 AM

Which are the best easily available vermouths in the US?

Vya Vermouth, both red and white. Hands down. Nothing else even comes close. The only vermouth I like to have just on the rocks with a twist. This may be a little difficult to get, so for "easy availability" you're down to the mid-level vermouths.

Which is a good mid-range brand?

Noilly Prat for white, Cinzano Rosso for red. These are available everywhere.

Which is the best of the cheap brands?

Since the mid-range vermouths only cost around 8 bucks a bottle, and Vya is only about twice that... why get anything cheaper? It's already cheap.

Might anyone enlighten me to why most bars/restaurants--at least in my experience--tend to only stock the cheapest most gawd awful vermouths?

Because most bars/restaurants use 95% of their vermouth in vodka "martinis" that include a miniscule amount of vermouth only as a nod to tradition. Since no one can detect the presence of vermouth -- never mind tell the difference betwen good and bad vermouth -- in a 50:1 vodka martini, why bother using the good stuff?
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#2 MatthewB

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 09:25 AM

With Sam, on the Vya. But Duckhorn's King Eider is worth it if you can find it. (And, I've seen King Eider more often than Vya but I've a good supplier for Vya.)

Mid-range range:

As Sam noted, Noilly Prat dry & Cinzano sweet. (But sometimes I'll pick up either Noilly Prat or Cinzano in both sweet & dry when there are sales.)

Cheap brands:

As Sam, I don't bother.

This summer, I'm also home-stocking--not so much vermouths as aperitifs--the following:

Dubonnet rouge (French origin only as the American stuff is too sweet for my taste)
Lillet blonde
Cinzano Biano (nice with a lemon twist)
St. Raphael red & white
Carpano Punt Y Mes
Carpano Antica Formula

I think that's all. :unsure:

#3 Lan4Dawg

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 09:47 AM

When ordering a Martini I always ask what type of vermouth they serve & it is amazing that only about 1% of waiters even have a clue. If they do not have a decent vermouth I ask for Dubonnet blanc or dry sherry. If they do not have that then I request scotch instead of vermouth--you should try it & it is better than most of the garbage vermouth they have available.
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#4 slkinsey

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 09:56 AM

Carpano Punt Y Mes
Carpano Antica Formula

Interesting. I've always considered Carpano an amaro rather than a vermouth, although obviously there is some overlap between these two beverages.

I'm with you on the Lillet Blonde... the rouge is good too.

What's the deal with Duckhorn's King Eider? Never seen it. How does it compare to Vya?
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#5 MatthewB

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 10:01 AM

I generally drink the Punt Y Mes straight-on-the-rocks. However, the bartender at the Zuni Cafe turned me on to using it to replace the vermouth in sweet Manhattans. (But use only half as much Punt Y Mes in relation to the amount of sweet vermouth you usually use.)

Now, the Antica Formula is a whole different story. Much more like a vermouth than Punt Y Mes. Seek out a bottle or two.

The King Eider is very comparable to the Vya as far as quality. The Eider is a bit more herbal though.

#6 slkinsey

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 10:37 AM

Now, the Antica Formula is a whole different story.  Much more like a vermouth than Punt Y Mes.  Seek out a bottle or two.

Oh, I've had it. Liked it, but it didn't blow me away. Great bottle, though.

The King Eider is very comparable to the Vya as far as quality.  The Eider is a bit more herbal though.

Cool. I'll have to try and find some.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#7 paw

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 11:06 AM

The King Eider is very comparable to the Vya as far as quality.  The Eider is a bit more herbal though.

King Eider has a more pronounced bitterness. It's also a bit less complex than Vya (not necessarily a criticism.) I find the Vya richer--more full bodied and just more going on in there. So much going on, in fact, that I wouldn't put it in a martini. It may be the tastiest vermouth out there, but that doesn't mean it's the best mixer. For that, I'll have to agree with the others who favor Noilly-Prat dry.

#8 MatthewB

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 11:15 AM

Good observations, paw.

Personally, I'll always reach for the Prat dry for a martini. (And, I do think the Vya is better than the Eider, but I like the Eider, too.)

Where the Vya really shines is the sweet for Manhattans, IMHO.

#9 Lan4Dawg

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 11:52 AM

I agree about Noilly Prat. I refuse to use any other vermouth. I used to get grief about being particular about vermouth until we did taste tests & now all of my fellow martini drinking acquaintances also purchase Noilly Prat.

I was not that fond of the Eider as it overwhelmed the gin. Too sweet for my taste to mix in martinis but quite nice as an aperitif.
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the best cat ever.

#10 trillium

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 11:59 AM

Now, the Antica Formula is a whole different story.  Much more like a vermouth than Punt Y Mes.  Seek out a bottle or two.

Oh, I've had it. Liked it, but it didn't blow me away. Great bottle, though.

Really? I love it for mixing. I think it's much better then Punt Y Mes for Negronis, Manhattans and Bronxes (not sure of the proper way to make that plural!). Especially for the Bronx. Seville orange juice, Antica formula and Noilly Prat, plus your choice of gin (mine is usually Sapphire, I like aromatics)...nothing finer. If you're drinking it straight then I could see how you might not like it. I am very bitter that I can't find decent French vermouth here in Portland. I love the salty taste of Noilly Pratt in martinis, it's just not a martini without it. It irritated me that I had to mail order a $6 bottle of vermouth!

As for the semantic argument of an amari vs. vermouth, I think certain amari (of which there are many styles) got lumped into the vermouth category. I would argue that all sweet/Italian vermouths are amari, but not all amari are vermouths!

regards,
trillium

#11 cdh

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 12:21 PM

While we're chatting about the funkier herbally infused wines, I must put in a brief plug for Byrrh... which is a port-like fortified wine that has been dosed with quinine and an herb or two. Very nice.

I'll also note my previously expressed observation that Noilly Prat white plus a few drops of Orange Bitters is a pretty damn good flavor clone to the Lillet Blanc, albeit minus the caramel undertones of the Lillet.

And I'll say that I've never been impressed with Punt e Mes... doesn't do much for me, I don't find.

Further, I'll have to track down the Vya... but I'm still reticent about paying $24 for a bottle of vermouth... and I can't think of a bar that might serve it... even in NYC... and even if one did, I'm sure a drink would cost half the price of the bottle.

Edited by cdh, 24 July 2003 - 12:28 PM.

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#12 DrinkBoy

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Posted 07 August 2004 - 09:58 AM

Here is an article from MSNBC about Vermouth...

Vermouth struggles to save itself
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5595203

...which I just happen to appear in...

(it might just be my current connection, but the article that comes up from the link above is incomplete, ending with a section on "Martini vs. martini". If that's what you see, then click on the "Print" link at the top of the page, that brought up the whole article, which goes into more details about the boutique vermouths and such)

-Robert

#13 rkolluri

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Posted 20 January 2005 - 07:54 PM

I read recently that vermouth has a fairly short shelf life once opened. Dale Degroff in his book "The Craft of the Cocktail" basically says you can store an open bottle of vermouth for about 4 weeks in a refrigerator. Now I have to admit I have stored vermouth for much longer than that outside the refrigerator. Should I be concerned? Should I just buy one month's supply at a time? I use vermouth only for martinis and manhattans so I use very little of the dry and sweet kinds in any given month.

What do the rest of you do?

rkolluri

#14 andiesenji

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Posted 20 January 2005 - 08:25 PM

I only use vermouth in cooking, however it seems to me to keep just about forever.
I have only one friend who drinks martinis and I have never heard a complaint from her. As long as it isn't subjected to extremes of heat and cold I don't see how it can be damaged.
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#15 fatdeko

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 10:54 AM

At work, I go through a goodly amount of vermouth, so I don't much think about it. (Now that I think about it, though, the folks at Noilly Prat owe me at least a T-shirt)

But at home, I don't go through nearly enough.

The key is to buy the smallest bottle available and keep it in the 'fridge. Even with the botanicals and boosted alcohol, vermouth is still a wine and will turn on you given the chance. 1 month, 2 months of shelf life--your mileage may vary.
And even then, the glide path of deterioration is gentle, subtle and pretty uneventful. What you'll notice is a gradual lack of definition and liveliness.
The good news is that Vermouth is just so damn cheap and so easy to replace. When you think about the cheeses and meats or dairy products that you throw away in a month, a bottle of vermouth is a great investment. And it's well worth the extra buck or two to buy GOOD vermouth instead of crap.

But if you tend to be the stingy or miserly sort, the other good news is that there's lots a cocktails out there that use vermouth that are worth exploring. Heck, a decent vermouth on the rox with a twist of something is pretty good too!

And cooking. Lots of places to use up your vermouth(s) in cooking.

Myers

#16 sco-v

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Posted 24 January 2005 - 10:55 AM

And it's well worth the extra buck or two to buy GOOD vermouth instead of crap. 

Myers

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any brands to be on the lookout for and more importantly any to avoid at all costs?

#17 slkinsey

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Posted 24 January 2005 - 11:10 AM

Vya is, IMO, hands down the best vermouth on the market. Both the white and red versions are good enough to sip by themselves on the rocks with a twist. The gold standards for mixing, IMO, are Noilly Pratt for white vermouth and Cinzano for red. Not sure I'd want to sip either one of these on the rocks, though.

I keep my vermouth in the refrigerator capped with one of those rubber "wine saver" cork thinks you use to suck out most of the residual air. Have kept vermouth in excellent condition up to 6 months this way.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#18 DaleJ

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Posted 24 January 2005 - 11:28 AM

OMG! I buy a .750 liter bottle a couple of times a year for the nightly martinis and never thought about keeping the bottle in the fridge. If its gone bad I guess I don't notice since I only use a few drops at a time.

#19 slkinsey

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Posted 25 January 2005 - 02:56 PM

No point of using it if you only use a few drops at a time, my friend. I think you'll find, however, that a Martini is much better in the 4:1 to 6:1 range (I'll even go 3:1 with a good vermouth and a flavorful gin).
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#20 Heikki

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 04:39 AM

Vermouth does change even in the fridge over the time. The change is easy to note when one buys a new bottle to replace the old. When tasted side by side the vermouth from the old bottle is more bitter and there are some other changes too which are for me harder to classify. At least the added bitterness is easy to notice.

I second the idea of buying the smallest bottle and since we only have .750 size bottles of red here I have even thought about rebottling .750 bottles into two .375 bottles to make the red vermouth last longer.

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#21 bbqer

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 09:22 AM

No point of using it if you only use a few drops at a time, my friend.  I think you'll find, however, that a Martini is much better in the 4:1 to 6:1 range (I'll even go 3:1 with a good vermouth and a flavorful gin).

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My preference is about 5:1 or 6:1. After that, I can't really notice the taste...and I do like the flavor the vermouth imparts.
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#22 The Hersch

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 12:08 PM

Does anyone know if there is any truth to the claim made in this morning's Times that the Noilly Prat vermouth one gets in France is different from (and better than) what one gets in the US? The author, Melissa Clark, avers: "It is made differently there, and flaunts a more assertive and complex personality than its blander American counterpart", which seems to imply that the Noilly Prat in the US is produced domestically, which the label on my bottle ("Produit de France") clearly contradicts. But is there a difference? And if so, why?

#23 eje

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 03:15 PM

Our DVR sometimes decides to tape the Cook's Illustrated TV show for us. One episode recently contained a segment on rating dry Vermouths for cooking. They had bow tie guy do a blind tasting while review guy talked about what you should look for in a Vermouth.

In the end they recommended Gallo Vermouth for cooking. I think Noilly Pratt came in second.

However, while the review guy was talking, bow tie guy tasted all 4 and then proceded to down about 3 glasses of one of the Vermouths, which he then picked as his favorite. It turned out to be the Vya Extra Dry Vermouth. When he found out the review guy recommended people buy the Gallo he said something like, "Good more of this one for me!".

Anyway, that was enough of a recommendation for me, so I've since picked up a bottle. Haven't had a chance to do my own taste test vs. Noilly Pratt as of yet.

Anyway, if the French are screwing us by sending watered down vermouth, stick it to them, and buy American.

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#24 The Hersch

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 07:15 AM

Anyway, if the French are screwing us by sending watered down vermouth, stick it to them, and buy American.

Gee, I hadn't considered the chauvinism angle.

I haven't tried Vya vermouth, but it should be borne in mind that it's close to three times the price of Noilly.

#25 eje

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 08:25 AM

Gee, I hadn't considered the chauvinism angle.

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Rats, I was trying to be funny not chauvanistic.

If cheapness is your first concern, you could always make your own. I think the only tricky part is tracking down the more obscure flavoring elements, though I find a lot of odd roots and herbs at local health food stores, so I'm sure they can be ordered on the internet.

-Erik
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#26 The Hersch

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 11:41 AM

Rats, I was trying to be funny not chauvanistic.

If cheapness is your first concern, you could always make your own.

Hey, I was trying to be funny too! Cheapness is not my first concern, but twenty bucks or so is an awful lot to pay for a bottle of vermouth, especially since I find Noilly Prat completely acceptable for both martini and cooking purposes (my only uses for vermouth, usually) and it costs me eight dollars for a litre. My real concern was the supposed differences between Noilly Prat found in the US and that found in France, but I guess no one has any information on that.

#27 slkinsey

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 12:34 PM

The article says:

Of all the aperitifs, vermouths vary the most in quality. Before subjecting a garden full of friends to any one brand, taste it first and make sure it's good enough to serve on its own. Noilly Prat is dependable. It can even be sublime if you've picked up a bottle while visiting France. It is made differently there, and flaunts a more assertive and complex personality than its blander American counterpart.

This seems to imply that Noilly Prat produces vermouth for the American market in America. I'd be interested to know where she got her information. As well as I can recall, bottles of Noilly Pratt say "Product of France" on the side. I would be shocked to learn that there is really a difference between Noilly Prat manufactured for the US and the Noilly Prat manufactured for France and Europe. Here is some good information on the process, for those who are interested.

As for The Hersh's thoughts on more expensive vermouths (i.e., Vya). . . I think you'll find that if you try Vya you'll see that it's good for a whole lot more than just Martinis and cooking. Indeed, I would consider using Vya for cooking somewhat of a waste. Vya on the rocks with a twist, on the other hand, is a great drink. I also enjoy "Reverse Martinis" with Vya.

In other news, the Noilly Prat web site has a link to a nice article about vermouth and Audrey Saunders:

Audrey Saunders . . . has chosen as her house aperitif the Eve, a soft infusion of McIntosh apples and soft Noilly Prat dry vermouth . . . softening the distinctive qualities of each ingredient into a taste at once familiar and utterly fresh."

I've tried the infused vermouth, and it's really nice.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#28 Splificator

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 01:01 PM

As far as I know, Melissa Clark got her information right from the source, at the Noilly Prat factory (winery? distillery? aperitifery?). And I know for a fact that there is another, darker, longer-aged NP available in France, because I have some of it in my refrigerator. It's much closer to Vya than the regular NP, although I haven't done a side-by-side tasting (no Vya left, and I, too, balk at paying upwards of $20 for vermouth when the $8 NP we get is beyond adequate--although the Vya is a lovely vermouth).

I don't believe this NP-extra, or whatever it's called (I don't have a bottle, just some of the liquid) is the standard stuff one gets in France; it's some kind of factory special/extra, etc. When Melissa is back in town I'll ask her about it. I was in France a few weeks ago, and the NP I bought at the supermarket in Cognac and mixed Gotham Cocktails with appeared to be identical to the stuff we get here.
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#29 trillium

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 01:21 PM

I bought a bottle of the dry Vya to see what all the fuss was about, and I'm not particularly keen about the strong cassia taste. Anyone else notice this? I'd be curious to know if the fancy NP has that same taste. What I like about NP is the salty, bitter quality, in addition to the aromatics. I found the Vya didn't have that at all, and tasted sweeter on my tongue, but it could just be from the "sweet" spices.

I have my bottle of Vya at room temp., I go through vermouth fast enough I don't keep it in the fridge. But the cork pops rather disturbingly when I open it. That makes me wonder if I should try to find space to put it in the fridge. Anyone else notice this?

regards,
trillium

#30 JohnL

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 01:28 PM

A friend of mine who is a Brit (London) and lives here in NYC told me the Noilly Prat he is used to in England is very different and stronger than the version sold here.
also
I am a bit suprised that no one mentioned Boissiere which is my favorite Vermouth.
(it is not quite as available as some other brands but it is around--here in NYC area.)