Spirits Close-Up: Sweet Vermouth

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This month’s Craft Cocktail, The Fender Bender at Hi-Lo Diner, uses the sweet vermouth Carpano Antica (above, far left) to bring the flavors of the drink together. In this month’s Spirits Close-Up, we focus on this fortified wine, and why is makes sense to pop for the good stuff when mixing drinks that call for it.

Why should I buy expensive vermouth? Most cocktails that call for sweet vermouth, or at least the ones you’re likely to make at home, involve two or three ingredients. If you splurge on one ingredient and get stingy with the other, your drink will be middling at best. You wouldn’t buy an expensive work of art only to buy the frame at IKEA.

Wait, what is vermouth, again? A wine that has been fortified with a neutral spirit, sweetened, and aromatized with various herbs, barks and roots, especially wormwood. It’s considered an aperitif and is usually around 20 percent ABV.

What’s wrong with those cheap vermouths? They taste like sugar and nothing else. If you get vermouth from the bottom shelf, you’ll be diluting your fine bourbon with red-tinted syrup. You want sweet vermouth to add more than sweetness to your drink.

Why splurge when it just goes bad? Vermouth, like wine, will oxidize once the bottle is open. Get some bottle stoppers with a vacuum pump (the Vacu Vin Wine Saver is cheap and effective.) Pump the air out of the bottle after each use and it’ll keep in the fridge for a few months.

What do the good vermouths taste like? Any of these five vermouths would be lovely with either a Manhattan or a Negroni. But if we had to arrange them on a spectrum… (From “Better with Whiskey to Better with Gin”)

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John Garland About John Garland

John Garland is the Deputy Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in every coffee shop on West 7th Street.

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