Adding to our Red Vermouth Catalog + Bold Proposition Cocktail Recipe

Posted on May 3, 2017


Adding to our Red Vermouth Catalog

Our earliest sets of posts (here and here and here and here and here) came about when, after years of using whatever vermouth was handy, we realized that it might be useful to find out which one we liked best and why. We conducted a taste-off to determine which red vermouth and which dry vermouth we would stock in our bar. That tournament served us very well for a while, but as time passes we have more and more experience mixing with vermouth and there are more and more vermouths available. We felt it was time to update our earlier findings.

It’s been quite helpful in this project to have made the acquaintance of Fasel Shenstone, a fortified wine importer that specializes in discovering small, family owned houses who

  • grow their own grapes on their own land,
  • produce in small batches,
  • employ traditional methods,
  • and use only fresh, high quality ingredients,

These aren’t your typical fortified wines. They’re from unexpected places. They have unique personalities. And they’re usually quite delicious. We thoroughly enjoyed the bottles of red vermouth they sent us a couple of months ago, and were therefore delighted when they sent two more our way this week.

The first was Vermut Lacuesta Rojo, from the small town of Haro in Spain. It’s the less-aged version of the Lacuesta Reserva we tasted in February.  When the Reserva gets a finishing touch of 6 to 9 months in an oak or acacia barrel, the vermut rojo goes straight to bottle. Given its less sophisticated treatment, we were pleasantly surprised by how tasty it is. It’s less sweet and less sour than our usual Dolin Red. It goes down very smooth, with a well-balanced mix of spices flavoring a rich, fruity wine. It’s a few dollars more than Dolin, but only a few. It might very well be a good value-for-price compromise between Dolin and the Reserva.

Our second bottle, Mancino Vermouth Rosso Amaranto, has a clear, specific comparable in Punt e Mes. All red vermouths are sweet and a little bitter. Punt e Mes is a red vermouth with the volume turned up, quite a bit sweeter and that much more again bitter. Its extra bitterness in particular makes Punt e Mes practically a distinct subgenre of sweet vermouth. You can’t really swap it with a more typical red vermouth: use another red vermouth when Punt e Mes is called for, and you miss the intended intensity of the drink; use Punt e Mes in place of another vermouth, and there’s a high likelihood it will overwhelm the rest of the drink.

Mancino’s Amaranto seems to exist to offer an alternative to Punt e Mes. And a very fine alternative at that. I know they’ve been making Punt e Mes since the middle of the 19th century, but it feels like a clumsy teenager when you taste it side-by-side with the Amaranto. Punt e Mes’ flavor comes in two distinct stages: a forcefully caramel front, with an even more forcefully bitter back. The Amaranto is more well-integrated–a good general description of the difference Fasel Shenstone’s vermouths have with their more commercial competitors. The Amaranto has a full-bodied, fruity wine flavor with strong bitter notes being played throughout. It’s a harmonious marriage between a red vermouth and an amaro.

Bold Proposition Cocktail Recipe

adapted from Matt Schrage at Boston’s No. 9 Park, found in Fred Yarm’s Drink and Tell.

Schrage uses 3/4 oz of Zirbenz pine liqueur. We could only get a hold of Clear Creek’s Douglas Fir liqueur. We can’t speak to Zirbenz, but to our taste buds at least Clear Creek is far too piney to use that much; Clear Creek themselves call it ‘a tree in a bottle,’ and they’re not wrong. Maybe Schrage likes trees more than we do, or maybe Zirbenz is milder. In any case, we took it down to 2 tsp (1/3 oz).

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz Old Tom gin
  • 3/4 oz bitter red vermouth–the recipe calls for Punt e Mes, but we used Mancino
  • 2 teaspoons Clear Creek Douglas Fir liqueur (Schrage calls for 3/4 oz Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur)
  • 1 tsp Islay Scotch

Instructions

  • Rinse a cocktail glass with the Scotch (Schrage uses an old fashioned glass, but we have something against the aesthetics of a strained drink in an old fashioned glass).
  • Add gin, vermouth, and pine liqueur to a mixing glass.
  • Fill with ice to the level of the liquid.
  • Stir until the ice is noticeably melted.
  • Strain into the rinsed glass.