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slkinsey

Vermouth

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Noilly Prat is retiring the dry variant produced for the US and will have a common product for US and ROW. I'm unaware if the Sweet/Rouge is changing. Proof level on both dry and sweet stay the same as before, 18% and 16% respectively. Like M+R, Bacardi's Noilly Prat is trying to step things up with some modern new packaging and labels. If it helps broaden the appeal of vermouth, more power to them.

If Bacardi has plans to bring the Noilly Amber stateside, they've not yet filed for label approvals, which have been in place for the new Noilly Dry and Sweet since January.


Edited by eas (log)

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I just heard a rumor that Noilly will be importing the "European" strength dry vermouth.  And they will be bringing Amber vermouth in as well.

Anyone have more info?

Toby

someone from noilly gave me a bottle of the new product when i was down for the TOTC... the strength increase is that of the bitter... and the aging is different as well... (longer i think)

when comparing to my memory i'd say the difference is negligable but i bet you may notice a difference in a side by side. i asked if the reformulation was related to wormwood laws changing but didn't get a clear answer.

according to the presentation, they only make one formula for the sweet and the amber isn't being imported any time soon...

i wrote about it somewhat on my blog... i like noilly dry. its wine base is drastically different from any of the other options. its like rainwater madiera vermouth due to its radical weathering...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

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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?

You forgot Carpano Antica, Hands down the best sweet vermouth out there, and it's slightly bitter cousin Punt e Mes.

Toby


A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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You forgot Carpano Antica, Hands down the best sweet vermouth out there, and it's slightly bitter cousin Punt e Mes.

Toby

I like Carpano a lot, but find it has an amusing tutti frutti character which often shows up when combined with just orange bitters or Amer Picon in a drink. Some drinks like a Martinez or Creole Cocktail are almost amusing to me in their fruit candy character if you just use the orange bitters. Usually this can be managed by also including a dash of angostura in the drink.

Sometimes I also get something like Marshmallow from the Carpano in drinks. Don't know what that is about.

Anyway, I like Dolin Sweet vermouth a lot, from the little exposure I've had to it. It doesn't seem to be quite as heavy in the caramelized sugar as the Carpano. Plus, it isn't quite as expensive. Sadly, hardly anybody carries it, even where it is available.


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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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You forgot Carpano Antica, Hands down the best sweet vermouth out there, and it's slightly bitter cousin Punt e Mes.

Toby

I like Carpano a lot, but find it has an amusing tutti frutti character which often shows up when combined with just orange bitters or Amer Picon in a drink. Some drinks like a Martinez or Creole Cocktail are almost amusing to me in their fruit candy character if you just use the orange bitters. Usually this can be managed by also including a dash of angostura in the drink.

Sometimes I also get something like Marshmallow from the Carpano in drinks. Don't know what that is about.

Anyway, I like Dolin Sweet vermouth a lot, from the little exposure I've had to it. It doesn't seem to be quite as heavy in the caramelized sugar as the Carpano. Plus, it isn't quite as expensive. Sadly, hardly anybody carries it, even where it is available.

i am itching to try the dolins... i just landed the boissiere and really enjoy it. there are very few bad vermouths out there. just different house styles that no one has bothered to educate anyone on the differences of... its more apparent in the dry's but so many vermouths have completely different styles of wine base besides their own botanical formulas...

i've never had carpano antica but i have a feeling its more like an "americano" than a "sweet vermouth"...


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[...]

i've never had carpano antica but i have a feeling its more like an "americano" than a "sweet vermouth"...

Nah. I'm not sure exactly what the classification "Americano" denotes but Carpano Antica is nowhere near as bitter as Cocchi Americano, Vergano Americano, or any of the chinatos (chinati?) I've tried. Even Punt e Mes is significantly more bitter. At least to me.

It just a nice, flavorful Sweet Vermouth.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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[...]

i've never had carpano antica but i have a feeling its more like an "americano" than a "sweet vermouth"...

Nah. I'm not sure exactly what the classification "Americano" denotes but Carpano Antica is nowhere near as bitter as Cocchi Americano, Vergano Americano, or any of the chinatos (chinati?) I've tried. Even Punt e Mes is significantly more bitter. At least to me.

It just a nice, flavorful Sweet Vermouth.

in my own mind i demoted vya sweet to an americano. its not that "americanos" are exactly bitter but they more simplistic. they don't even play by the same rules of intensity either...

in the "technology of winemaking" maynard amerine doesn't exactly define vermouth to have a maximum of botanical extract but he gives ranges from samples that were collected so i guess there are some sort of rules to play by. i keep hearing that carpano antica has alot of intensity. is it playing by different rules or could other vermouth producers just give us more cow bell and therefore be more comparable?


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so i keep hearing that vermouth is perishable... "its essentially wine", "keep it in the refrigerator", "you have a week to drink it before it start to go bad so buy half bottles", "you have four weeks before it loses its taste", etc...

well lots of people offer lots of advice about how perishable it is. but what separates wine from lightly fortified wine, from vermouth, from things like cynar and campari, from gin...

wine is usually low enough in alcohol that it can face acetification. where oxygen and vinegar producing bacteria produce acetic acid. i think this happens at alcohol levels of 15% and lower. lactic bacteria can also be active at these levels and produce off flavors. PH also plays a factor in controlling them. so does this means that super high powered zinfandels won't turn to vinegar but might oxidize to death with a cork issue??

lightly fortified wines like dry sherry try to hit a level that protects them from acetification but promotes the growth of flor yeast creating a film on the surface of the wine to induce some sort of controlled oxidation. its recommended that you drink dry sherries fast after opening because they "decline". in the same way vermouth does? is it related to alcohol levels or delicacy of flavor? its is also highly recommended to look at born on dates because dry sherries like manzanilla supposedly die very fast on the shelf and need to be very young. i wish they had bigger more regulated born on dates... and should we desire the same thing for vermouth? i have no idea when any of the ten vermouth bottles in my fridge were made. and its known that dessert wines age rapidly at first then start aging very slowly... (change in oxidation reduction potential? whatever that is...) certain sherries probably quickly age past their prime in this rapid stage. so what sets vermouth apart? is there enough intensity to protect it?

port is a step towards vermouth in in alcohol level and sugar content. amerine claims that most port follows an "18 by 6" model. of 18% alcohol by 6 brix. i've seen people leave very expensive ports and madeiras open for quite a while without thinking that they have lost their flavor. amerine explains that fortified wines often hit 18 and 20% because bacteria are still active at those levels. lactic bacteria can still grow at 20% alcohol if PH is hospitable. counter intuitive or misunderstood by me, amerine also explains that yeasts become more sensitive to alcohol as sugar content is increased... (which may explain why sweet vermouths can have less alcohol). the goal is to hit the minimum so you keep esters and acids concentrated.

well once you start beating spoilage, what starts to separate you from a distilled gin? a key difference is that all these things have some sort of sugar content which can caramelize, maderize and break down. and also maybe they have significantly more complex esters and molecular junk? are gins made primarily of resilient botanicals? and what protects them from oxidation and not the vermouths? is my gin withering in a half empty bottle and i'm too ignorant to know it?

there is some sort of "oxidation reduction potential" or capacity to change over a period of aging, which maybe different for vermouths as opposed to gins. i wish i knew why.

in between vermouth and gin is the camparis and cynars which in my understanding have no wine, contain distilled or macerated botanicals, and very low alcohol. (cynar rings in at 16.5% alcohol! couldn't it spoil without a stabilizer?). i've never found one that spoiled, but shouldn't they play by the same rules of oxidizing as a vermouth? conventional wisdom would say you should put them in your fridge and expect them to be really different if opened more than a month... does their intensity save them? some flavor erodes but there is so much still behind it...

whats up with this? Herve This or ghost of Maynard Amerine please save us!

anyone have any insights about the complex lives of our eccentric alcohol preserves?


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I think these questions, which I would be very interested to have answers to, bring into sharp relief the schism between cocktail nerds and wine nerds and how Vermouth is sort of a stepchild of both groups; all but the most devoted cocktail folks, such as on forums like this, consider it something to be omitted from your glass of Gin (or Vodka; sigh) and the wine camp for the most part doesn't even seem to realise that it is in fact a wine. Even when they do they think it's some inferior type to be relegated to the spirits people. Sad state of affairs I tell you.


Andy Arrington

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Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Never having been much of a wine drinker, especially dry wines, I've have come to enjoy drinking straight dry vermouth as an aperitif (that's what it was meant to be, right?), when I don't want something as strong as a mixed drink. I finally found a wine that suits my palate. And I guess most wine drinkers would look on in horror at ice in a glass of wine, but vermouth goes very well over ice. And a reverse Martini is a nice change of pace when something lighter is desired.


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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I also like vermouth as an apertif. On the rocks with a twist. Works well with red or white for me.


KathyM

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[...]

i've never had carpano antica but i have a feeling its more like an "americano" than a "sweet vermouth"...

Nah. I'm not sure exactly what the classification "Americano" denotes but Carpano Antica is nowhere near as bitter as Cocchi Americano, Vergano Americano, or any of the chinatos (chinati?) I've tried. Even Punt e Mes is significantly more bitter. At least to me.

It just a nice, flavorful Sweet Vermouth.

in my own mind i demoted vya sweet to an americano. its not that "americanos" are exactly bitter but they more simplistic. they don't even play by the same rules of intensity either...

I had the sweet Vya yesterday at LeNell's and left a big bottle of Carpano Antica on the shelf because I'm really happy with Punt e Mes in most drinks. The CA is great, but, I have to say, I was underwhelmed by the Vya. It was tasty enough, but, I guess I don't quite get it.


Chris Amirault

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i just opened a bottle of boissiere "extra dry" vermouth...

not bad at all. i rarely see it around and i bought the last bottle on the self.

there is an elegant and subtle bitter which feels like a large amount of wormwood style sharpness. the fruit and body of it is very different than noilly prat. its definitely not honeyed and oxidized. a really fresh vino verde meets elderflower-moscat like fruit is present but definitely not in any annoying unbalanced way like so many dry vermouths...

i think i'd buy this again in an instant if i saw it...


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so as i was leaving work my boss surprised me with a bottle of carpano antica that he scored while in NYC. i didn't get to try it in any drinks yet, but drank a couple ounces and took some notes.

the nose had a faded anise character with evident vanilla and a subtle orange peel kind of character... the nose to me seemed to be not that complex and had stuck aromas that come into focus and don't really leave. a coworker though she smelt a nutmeg/mace like character that was most satisfactory. over all i thought it smelt rather stodgy...

on the palate you definitely get a vanilla character that you never see in other vermouths except noilly ambre. there is a raisinated "date" like fruit character that is kind of fun. i think other vermouths would benefit from fruit character more fun than orange peel... the antica is definitely a few shades more bitter than other vermouths in a quinine/wormwood kind of way. its kind of buried in there but the antica feels like it uses a rougher more grappa like and fun fortifying spirit.

over all i'd say that carpano antica is not very complex. its not exactly over the top integrated and enigmatic like some of the others. you can recognize clear as day so many of its elements. but what antica does have is incredible "direction" and the balance of its loud flavors are a huge amount of fun. i definitely wouldn't demote the antica to an "americano"

all in all delicious. i would love it try it in some cocktails but i wouldn't trade in my stock,cinzano, boisiere, or even cribari...


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Has anyone ever tried rebottling vermouth in smaller bottles to keep it fresh for longer? I've heard people suggest this for Carpano Antica, but I don't think I've ever spoken to anyone who's tried it. Realistically it'll probably take me a couple of months to get through each bottle, and it would be nice if I could avoid completely losing the flavour in that time.

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The difficulty in doing that is that the very act of pouring the vermouth out of one bottle into another will oxidize it.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Has anyone ever tried rebottling vermouth in smaller bottles to keep it fresh for longer?
No, but I usually buy it in tenths (375 ml) for that reason. I should explain that I just occasionally use Vermouth for drinks, opening a fresh bottle if possible. But for decades I've normally kept screw-cap-closed bottles of it on hand in the refrigerator (along with various other fortified wines) because it is useful in cooking. (Just used some to soak the saffron for a Risotto Milanese in fact.) I find that it loses a little sublety, but doesn't show gross oxidation even with months of storage.

I should explain I deal with table wines regularly in large variety, frequent blind tastings, etc. After many years of experimenting with storing leftover wines, trying various gimmicks and ultimately rejecting them as more trouble than they're worth, the usual practice for partial wine bottles is to seal them up tightly and refrigerate. That last factor is more important than anything else (slkinsey and others acquainted with thermodynamics will recall all the "kT" factors governing reaction-rate exponents) because a little reduction in temperature generally means a big reduction in chemical reaction rates of all kinds, including spoilage mechanisms. (A popular topic online among wine geeks who are also professional chemists.) For tables wines, usually the leftovers are used within days -- allowed to come up in temp. a bit before serving, of course, for aroma and flavor -- and how much this alters their flavor depends very much on the wine. After hundreds of trials I've found flavor and subtleties often remarkably intact, and rarely is there any serious flaw after a few days.

Fortified wines are a different story, lasting much longer, in fact some (like Sherry and Madeira) are, so to say, pre-spoiled as a deliberate part of their production and flavor. ("Madeirized" is standard wine-taster speak for oxidation in table wines.) A well-sealed, refrigerated 375 ml Vermouth can be fine for cooking after months. It might disappoint a Vermouth connoisseur in a drink, but I'll confess to making well-received Martinis (real Martinis, with good gin) from it occasionally.

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Just used some to soak the saffron for a Risotto Milanese in fact.

That was Noilly Dry, by the way. (When I refer to Vermouth it's normally dry Vermouth as I rarely use the sweet.)

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The difficulty in doing that is that the very act of pouring the vermouth out of one bottle into another will oxidize it.

Yes, I feared that would be the case - but will the resulting damage be less than repeatedly opening a large bottle, rather than this procedure of opening once and then resealing? Is using a vacuvin or similar a possibility, or is that pointless, too?

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The difficulty in doing that is that the very act of pouring the vermouth out of one bottle into another will oxidize it.

Yes, I feared that would be the case - but will the resulting damage be less than repeatedly opening a large bottle, rather than this procedure of opening once and then resealing? Is using a vacuvin or similar a possibility, or is that pointless, too?

I'm not so sure that just opening and pouring the vermouth will affect it in the way that it would to table wines; vermouths are fortified and (as I understand it) slightly oxidized, both of which have preservative effects. In the absence of specialised corking apparatus, I would say that pouring your Carpano Antica into smaller bottles, sealing them best as possible (eg with a vacu-vin) and/or perhaps putting a squirt of argon on the top, then refrigerating them until ready to use would probably have a decent chance of retarding the spoilage of the vermouth. While it's not a good as opening a fresh bottle, Antica Formula only comes in liters (right?) and so minimizing the exposed surface of the wine is better than just using the bottle otherwise. Now on the other hand, if you think you can use it in 2 months or less, then I doubt you'll see any appreciable degradation for home use so long as it is kept sealed and refrigerated.

Of course I've never actually had Antica Formula :sad:


Andy Arrington

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The difficulty in doing that is that the very act of pouring the vermouth out of one bottle into another will oxidize it.

Yes, I feared that would be the case - but will the resulting damage be less than repeatedly opening a large bottle, rather than this procedure of opening once and then resealing? Is using a vacuvin or similar a possibility, or is that pointless, too?

i'd say these vermouths are less parishable than you think... pouring a vermouth into a new vessel will technically oxidize it but you can minimize the effect down to a negligable level.

table wines are racked and exposed to air all the time for brief periods and they come out just fine. i separate my liters of sweet vermouth into tiny canning jars and find no ill effects. i fill them to the vary brim and use a spoon to put them into my oxo jigger when i'm ready to use them. some wine makers warm their wines to slightly above room temp because that way the act of pouring will dissolve less oxygen into the wine. a normal bottle of wine takes many hours to absorb its terminal level of oxygen that sets the ball rolling on spoilage so the mere seconds of racking at a high room temp into a vessel filled to max capacity should be no problem. i endorse the tiny canning jars. they are hard to pour from but if you are patient and at home a spoon works fine.

any high volume bars using 375's that want to be really anal should consider that they don't know the born on date of their vermouths and they could be trapped in the distribution system for a while (i see two or three different label styles at many liquor stores from any one brand). if a bar really uses alot they may get better performance out of liters or bigger because they age slower than the 375's.

sweet vermouths have the lowest amount of alcohol, maybe comparable to dessert wines, and its known that dessert wines age very fast in their early life and then even out to a slow crawl... i can't imagine sweet vermouth would be too different. using all the wine rules of thumb, a larger size would decrease that effect...

if i did serious volume and was really anal, i may even buy handles of vermouth to decrease the effects of the distribution system then decant it all into small bottles for all my stations and inert gas the left overs...


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I'm still searching for a sweet vermouth that I can say I really like, not that I've tried all that many--I don't have a lot of choices. I'm okay with M&R, but I'd like to find something better. It's amusing to read how the Vya vermouths have polarized those who've tried them. While I like the dry and would buy it again, I grew rather disappointed with the Vya sweet, being able to find only a few cocktails I could make it work in. I'm glad to have tried it, but I won't be buying again. I just keep getting this tomato/celery taste that ruins the drink for me. I'll bet it would be great added to a Bloody Mary!

I think I can get Noilly Prat sweet or Dolin sweet. Not much has been said about Noilly Prat sweet, so I'm wondering what people think of it. The accolades for Carpano Antica make it sound tempting, but wow, $30 for vermouth. Is it really worth that much? I keep Dubonnet around to use when it's call for, but I guess that's not really vermouth even though it works well as an alternative. This is an important quest for me as the Manhattan is one my favorite and most-often made cocktails.

(If you're wondering how I can enjoy Manhattans so much when I haven't had a vermouth that I can be excited about, it's because I probably obliterate the vermouth with overdoses of bitters).


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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I think I can get Noilly Prat sweet or Dolin sweet.  Not much has been said about Noilly Prat sweet, so I'm wondering what people think of it.  The accolades for Carpano Antica make it sound tempting, but wow, $30 for vermouth.  Is it really worth that much?

Noilly Prat sweet is awful. Dolin sweet is very good and worth having, but it doesn't really work exactly like most sweet red vermouths.

For most everyone I know, if they were forced to only use one sweet vermouth for the rest of their lives, they would pick Carpano Antica Formula without hesitation. I know I would.

If you can find it, Casa Martelletti also makes a very good sweet red vermouth.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Ditto what Sam said about Carpano Antica. And, though some claim that Carpano is wrong to call it thus, many around here love Punt e Mes used as a sweet vermouth -- and it's about 40% cheaper than the Antica.


Chris Amirault

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....many around here love Punt e Mes used as a sweet vermouth -- and it's about 40% cheaper than the Antica.

Particularly since you're already used to upping the bitter quotient in your standard manhattan.

Christopher

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