Capitoline: DC’s only Vermouth + Drink of the Week: San Martin
When we decided on the contestants in our vermouth tournament (cheap sweet bracket, cheap dry bracket, expensive dry bracket, expensive sweet bracket, championships), we disqualified American vermouths. We felt that they were a bit too newfangled for us to justify the steep price–somewhat upward of twice what we usually spend. So, we stuck to vermouths made in their original homelands of Savoy (southeastern France) and neighboring Piedmont (northwestern Italy).
I wouldn’t exactly say we repudiate our decision, but Capitoline Vermouth definitely has us giving it a second thought, over a fine cocktail made with a pricy, new vermouth made right here in DC.
Since our vermouth tournament days, we’ve met several US craft distillers, and we’ve become fans. We’ve found them, first of all, to be a great bunch of people: friendly, open, and engaging. They’re passionate and creative. They’re thoughtful about when they draw from tradition and when they depart from it for the sake of innovation, or simply for the sake of freshness and quality. The drinks they produce are lovingly handmade, traditional, innovative, often quite local pieces of liquid art. We had this experience with spirits with Wigle and with amare with Don Ciccio & Figli. And now with vermouth.
The key was getting to taste it before buying it. And, in that regard, we should mention to our DC readers the weekly tastings at Cordial in Union Market. Union Market is a very fun, lively place to spend a Sunday afternoon overall. But one of the things that brings us back Sunday after Sunday is the fact that Cordial, an immaculately curated liquor store there, holds weekly tastings of supremely interesting local spirits. Today, Capitoline was sharing their vermouth.
Capitoline: the only Vermouth made in DC
They have two varieties, as you might expect, a white and a rose. They name their vermouths after the wine variety they use rather than the typical designations of dry and sweet, because they take the wine base of their vermouths seriously–and it shows. While they’re fortified and spiced, as you would expect and even require of a vermouth, the wine stands out in a way that isn’t really true of traditional vermouths. The white tastes of citrus and honey (there’s actually no honey, but the hand-peeled Meyer lemons they use produce a honey-like flavor) with saffron. The rose is a fruity red wine with the flavors of baking spices.
We bought a bottle of the rose. I don’t think we can afford to use Capitoline for our everyday use. We use a lot of vermouth, and Capitoline is, in fact, more than 2 times what we usually spend on it. But we wish we could use Capitoline every day. As Kat Hamidi, one of Capitoline’s creators and the conductor of the tasting said, when you insist on small batches and the very best ingredients, it quite reasonably makes for a higher price point. True enough.
Let’s just say we’ll be using our Capitoline as much as we can afford to, particularly in vermouth-centric drinks or when we think the additional fruitiness will be especially welcome. It worked great in this classic cocktail, the San Martin. We tried both a standard vermouth and Capitoline’s. And we can confidently say the San Martin is better with the latter.
- 1.5 oz gin
- 1.5 oz sweet vermouth (or rose, if you prefer)
- .25 oz yellow Chartreuse
- lemon twist, for garnish
- stir liquid ingredients with ice until well chilled–go longer than you want
- pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with lemon twist