What the bloody hell is vermouth?
For many people of a certain age, vermouth is Cinzano, something we drank with cola in the late 70's because that's what we did - found our parents booze and added cola. Think Marsala and coke (yuk), cinzano and coke, brandy and coke or dry ginger if you were trying to be classy. I suspect vermouth is the new gin - a craze we are going to see evolve as gin has over the past decade or so. Vermouth is an aperitif, a fortified wine made on neutral grape spirit macerated with botanicals, roots, bark and all kinds of things. Then it can be redistilled, aromatised, fortified and sweetened with sugar cane syrup or sugar. In any case, it is great in a cocktail or sipped on its own.
Vermouth can be consumed alone as an aperitif, as it is in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. We use it mostly in a manhattan or a martini - and generally with either the aforementioned Cinzano dry or Noilly Pratt. We thought we might have a look at a few vermouths on the market and some of the other options available to lift your cocktail-at-home game.
Casa Mariol Negre is something I've had on the bar for a while - a Spanish black vermouth made on a base wine from 100% Macabeo grapes, blended with a neutral Macabeo grape spirit and distilled using green walnuts, rosemary, thyme, orange peel, wormwood and cardamom. It has a lovely spice profile. I've mixed this with Four Pillars Chardonnay Barrel Cask Aged Gin to produce a very festive Christmas Martini. $46
Belsazar is crafted using quality, regionally produced wines from the Black Forest in Southern Germany. Always a staple for classic cocktails, Belsazar presents vermouth with a twist - light and easy drinking for people to enjoy whenever and wherever they want to, from lunchtime to night time. Belsazar comes in a range including rose. $37
Allies Cinq a Sept is made on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula by all-round nice guy David 'Chappy' Chapman in a botanical infused barrel of fortified Pinot Noir. This is a flavour bomb of herbs and spice, bitterness and the pinot noir influence is evident. This with a MP produced gin like Rocky Jones Signature MP Gin does a fine martini make. $52
2019 Mosse Vermouth is one of our faves. Maybe because it is made on Chenin Blanc grapes by the Mosse family in the Loire Valley in France, and infused with citrus and spices like Szechuan pepper, before being fortified with grape spirit. This in an Americano is top notch drinking, and one won't be enough. $86
Finally, Pio Cesare, one of the most respected Italian wine houses, making wine since the 1800's, have their Vermouth di Torino. Packed to the gills with 26 aromatic herbs, such as wormwood, marjoram leaves, gentian roots and orange zest, this packs a flavour punch of big proportions. This one is best over ice or can be added to some good gin and a splash of campari to make a very modern Negroni. Or drink on its own over crushed ice with a slice of lemon. $78