Spiritual Sundays: Don’t fear the Vermouth, Part 2

Part 2? Where’s part 1, you ask? Over here, at my father’s blog: Rants of the Hedgehog

Vermouth, especially dry vermouth, is among the most maligned spirits. Most people tend to think of it as some sort of poisonous elixir which no sane person would ever add to such a pure substance as flavorless, chilled vodka. Now, I could go on a for a long time about how chilled vodka in a glass is not a martini, or how stupid I think it is to order an incredibly expensive vodka at a restaurant, like Grey Goose, just to pour some foul, cheap olive brine into it. My dad already summed up why people  avoid vermouth; It’s probably because most people have only ever had a dry martini, and if they ever had a martini with vermouth in it, it was probably not a quality spirit.

By the way, the term “dry martini” is a bit of a misnomer. Nowadays, it means maybe a touch of vermouth, or even without it. Originally, it was to distinguish between a martini made with dry vermouth, and a sweet martini: A martini made with, yes, sweet, or French, vermouth. Also, martinis were served with bitters, and generally with a twist of lemon or orange–not an olive, and certainly not with olive juice.

But right now, writing about vermouth is a downhill battle against a beleaguered force. Vermouth is coming back, in a big way. Not only are bartenders finding more use for the wide umbrella of herbed, slightly fortified wines, but there are many crafters creating different, exciting vermouths. And that is what today and next week’s posts are about: Two new vermouths that will change your mind about what the spirits can do for your drinks.

First up: Imbue.

Imbue is an amazing vermouth. I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of this for my 25th birthday. At around $27 dollars a bottle, it seems a bit expensive, but remember: Most spirits will cost you a great deal more, and generally you won’t be using too much vermouth per drink.

Its creators label it a bittersweet vermouth, a term I believe they coined. I was recently asked if it was somewhere between a sweet and dry vermouth. I answered that it stands on its own, falling into neither camp exactly. For instance, it can be used to make a fabulous martini, which, to contradict my previous statement a bit, is made with dry vermouth. But it’s also perfectly capable of making an excellent, unique negroni. In fact, Mr. Boozenik created the “Oregroni”, made with Imbue, Calisaya (an Oregonian version of Campari) and Portland’s Ransom Gin.

In experimenting with Imbue, I decided to treat it, more or less, as a sweet vermouth with my first invention ever! It’s a variation on the Vieux Carré, and I still don’t have a name for it. I discovered it last December in an attempt to find something to do with Smeby’s Apple-Cinnamon bitters. I wanted to make a winter cocktail, and I felt that using the bitters and combining them with Clear Creek’s Apple Brandy would be the way to do it. Substituting Apple Brandy for the Brandy in the Vieux Carré would make the drink a lot sweeter, as would switching the rye for Bourbon, for the carmel flavor, which meant that adding a sweet vermouth would make the drink cloying. Enter Imbue, the perfect herbal compliment to the sweetness of the bourbon and brandy.

The final recipe:

1 ounce Clear Creek Apple Brandy

1 ounce Buffalo Trace Bourbon

1 ounce Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth

2 dashes Apple-Cinnamon Bitters

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Build on large rocks, garnish with a generous orange swath.

Try making it, and let me know what you think!

Next week: Cocchi Americano

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5 responses to “Spiritual Sundays: Don’t fear the Vermouth, Part 2

  1. I believe French vermouth is dry, and Italian is sweet. Could be wrong.

    You’re welcome for the Imbue 🙂 I gotta try that Oregroni; sounds good! Oh, and yours sounds all right too 😉

    Nice post, Frane. Now come see me at Zenon.

    • Ah Shoot, Cory is, of course, correct. Apologies. Hopefully this oversight doesn’t undermine my whole post. Or is it undersight and overmine? Now I’m not sure!

      • You’re on the web. You get to edit your copy. You could include an “update” or strike through the words that need correction and enter the new words or phrases.

        Just be glad you didn’t put it in a book.

  2. Thanks for the write up!

    Traditionally yes…French Vermouth is Dry and Italian Vermouth is Red.

    Imbue however is neither. Imbue is a Northwest vermouth. Inspired and executed with the origins of traditional vermouth’s in mind, imbue fits into neither category. The choice of coining the label bittersweet, was to clarify to the American consumer what the product inside the bottle tastes like. (in essence…we dumbed it down a bit to make it more user friendly) Our goal with imbue Bittersweet is to capture the flavor of Oregon in a bottle. And we did so by choosing the best products available to us that featured the craftsmanship of the producers right here in Oregon.

    Thanks for the great write up, and I love your recipe. I’m going to try it out tomorrow night at Clyde Common.

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