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