2014 Retrospective

Years ago I did a Bostonapothecary retrospective that a lot of people enjoyed because the blog is so large and poorly organized. This year I thought I’d attempt something similar. As I started to look back I didn’t feel that productive, especially as I watched my peers release new books, but then I looked through the posts and wow did I accomplish a lot.

The year started with the release of the Distiller’s Workbook which is the summation of massive amounts of reading and the start of a new school of cocktail-centric distillation that is gaining traction in England particularly with the amazing bar, Peg + Patriot. The book captured the interest of one publisher but was ultimately rejected for containing too much science. I’m currently re-working an introduction to the exercises.

Distiller’s Workbook exercise 1 of 15 Tabasco Aromatized Gin
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 2 of 15 De-constructing and Re-constructing Chartreuse
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 3 of 15 Mass Market Maraschino Mayhem
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 4 of 15 Joseph König’s 19th Century Curaçao
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 5 of 15 Hershey’s Chocolate Bourbon
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 6 of 15 Truly Stimulating Absinthe
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 7 of 15 Non-potable Pure Pot Still Purell; Wormwood Aromatized Hand Sanitizer
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 8 of 15 Chipotle Tequila
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 9 of 15 Double grain bill white dog
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 10 of 15 Rooibos & Rye a.k.a. African Rye Whiskey
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 11 of 15 Pisco Faux Mosto Verde #Fail
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 12 of 15 Marmite Aromatized Rye
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 13 of 15 Malta Goya Aromatized Gin (faux Genever)
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 14 of 15 Fernet Aromatized Maraschino Cherries
Distiller’s Workbook exercise 15 of 15 Hopped Gin

Then I covered Nature v.s Nurture vs. Cocktail: Holistic vs. Salient Creative Linkage and possibly came up with a solution to a conundrum posed by an article in the journal Nature. After spending time with a theory of acquired tastes this might be the coolest concept I’ve ever come up with.

Then I read a few massive contemporary texts on distillation and found a clear explanation of a phenonemon erroneously explained by Germain-Robin in his latest text on brandy making. This was one of the last major what-ifs of distillation I was trying to hunt down.

Through the same texts I covered the demisting concept which is very important to new distillers particularly those distilling multiple different products on the same still. The inquiries here are helping me to tighten up my comparative explanations of various cut making techniques.

Early in the year I was contacted by the executor of the estate of the most famous American vermouth company and he sent me some company documents that I shared up. Despite so many seminars and articles, many spirits professionals are still telling a pretty shoddy history of vermouth.

Later on I read countless historical interviews from figures in the California wine & distilling industry and even found an important lost paper in an appendix. These accounts are of staggering value and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what they can tell us.

The Tribuno Papers inspired me to take another look at the most current vermouth literature and I found a ton of stuff everyone else in the popular culinary scene had been missing. The torch was clearly passed from the University of California to researchers in India of all places.

My newest counter pressure bottler debuted in June and it has been a quantum leap in what is possible for applying carbonation to bar programs (and to bottling beer!). I had to develop some new molding & casting techniques to fabricate it that have been turning heads in the maker community.

For those interested in history I stumbled upon the collected writings of the agricultural experiment station in Jamaica in the early 20th century and found the best explanations of the Jamaican rum making process that contradict some of the finer points of popular explanations. I thought these ideas might really excite certain people but they haven’t really trickled down yet. The same did happen when I found chemical analysis from the IRS of pre-Castro Cuban rums with brand names that contradicted some explanations floating around.

My library skills keep getting more formidable and I finally found the lost IRS internal document detailing the aging of whiskey in plywood barrels. It was in the Forest Products Research Laboratory library! I thought this would turn some heads with whiskey fanaticism at its peak and a shortage of oak barrels but no one seemed to notice.

In the late summer I started exploring the standardization of gin botanicals for a product I’m trying to help a local distillery develop. I thought I’d promote my typical open culture of sharing ideas (a high tide lifts all boats!) and wrote some posts to hopefully save others both time and money. Right now I’m at the stage of tracking down rare pieces of glassware some times called a Clevenger Apparatus which differ from other steam distillation rigs.

Three newly found papers on whiskey confirm aspects of my fake aging technique that was developed way back when and gives hints on how to optimize it.

The year has pretty much ended with me sharing more rare material from texts on distillation. The shared orange liqueur recipe features complicated fraction recycling that needs more commentary and possibly an info graphic. I have just acquired a book scanner and am learning to use it and am using library connections to acquire a few remaining rare texts that I plan to digitize and share. Some of this material is out of copyright and some could be considered abandoned copyright. Hopefully the effort will launch some ships and if you have any ideas for texts please submit them in an email.

One very big thing I’ve been withholding this year is my latest bottling device which can handle all forms of small bottles from 100 mL to 375 mL and at very high pressure levels. The design works staggeringly well but I haven’t figured out how to monetize it yet. It will become the counter pressure bottler design for the next thirty years.

I’m also withholding a really fantastic hydrometry technique that I’ve been teaching to select small distilleries as well as some very choice research papers that I’m trying to do some special stuff with.

For next year in the earliest spring I’m planning a cross country motorcycle trip to visit as many distilleries and library special collections as I can from Boston to UC Davis via the southern route. If you’re a distillery and want to hang out for an afternoon talking shop or a bar and can handle a night of guest bartending, drop me an email! Have shaker will travel!

A round up of the most current Vermouth literature

A lot has happened in vermouth since Maynard Amerine’s great annotated Bibliography, but not much of it has a web presence or even awareness in popular culinary. Most of the great research has been done in India, believe it or not, and is associated with the brilliant Dr. VK Joshi.

The Indian work with vermouth supports my theory that vermouth flourished in the late 19th and early 20th century because people’s tastes were more sophisticated than their ability to create wines. In India, simple plebian & ordinary wines, probably at risk of oxidation, are ameliorated and preserved to become enticing, exciting, and memorable aromatized wines.

I’ll link to and summarize a few of the great works I’ve recently come across from India. I had first come across a paper from India about seven years ago but somehow I’ve lost it and it doesn’t appear in this list so I know there is much more great Indian work out there. I made my first mango vermouth many years ago, but I made the wine myself and I think it had problems I’ve since learned how to correct.

Vermouth Production Technology – An overview This is one of the great concise modern looks at vermouth making. The bibliography is wonderful and there is a great botanical formula for a mango vermouth.

Flavour profiling of apple vermouth using descriptive analysis technique Worth checking out for the spider web graphic of apple vermouth alone. This paper can teach popular culinary a lot.

Influence of ethanol concentration, addition of spices extract, and level of sweetness on physio-chemical characteristics and sensory quality of apple vermouth This is a great paper about refining and optimizing vermouth formulas. In the paper is a dynamite looking botanical formula for apple vermouth.

Panorama of research and development of wines in India Interesting with a lot of amazing ideas. There is a great entry in the bibliography from 1985 “Mango Vermouth – A new alcoholic beverage” that I would love to track down.

Effect of different sugar sources and wood chips on the Quality of peach brandy Not exactly vermouth, but interesting for the peach brandy obsessed crowd and beautiful ideas for those making mixed mash distillates.

Production technology and quality characteristics of mead and fruit-honey wines – a review Again, not vermouth but included because the ideas are brilliant. There is also a wonderful paper describing the major uni-floral honeys of India. Who would not want to try mustard honey or cardamom or tamarind flower honey?

Analysis of volatile aroma constituents of wine produced from Indian mango This paper gives some great advice about producing fruit wines. This bibliography is interesting and there is a paper from the 1980’s cited about making dessert and madeira style mango wine.

A very interesting book, Specialty Wines Volume 63, has a chapter on vermouth written by an Indian author, among some other cool topics like Vin Santo making and the Appassimento technique. Rumor has it a PDF of this book exists out there on the web.

One new idea explained in this Hungarian paper from 2004 is that vermouth has serious antioxidant capabilities. In vogue extremist adages about the need for absolute freshness of vermouth might be bogus due to vermouth’s being pumped full of antioxidants from various botanicals. I have witnessed this first hand with some of my vermouth making explorations that are now 7+ years old. My Hercules renderings, where I even made my own base wine without reductive techniques, were preserved miraculously well by yerba mate and yarrow flowers. The fruit wine base could never have been expected to live that long without developing an oxidative character but there are a few bottles left if anyone is in doubt. Other papers do exist on the antioxidant activity of wormwood. This paper covers both antioxidant and antibacterial activity.

Besides the papers from India, probably the most interesting modern paper written about vermouth comes to us from the Bacardi Group’s Ivan Tonutti also of Martini & Rossi’s Grand Lusso and Bombay Sapphire fame. Tonutti has become well known as a brand/botanical ambassador, but the paper isn’t well known because it was written for a Brazilian science journal. Wild ideas are touched upon like the vacuum microwave hydro distillation of botanicals. Tonutti has certainly seen some wild stuff and this paper is not to be missed. This article from the Wine Spectator is worth taking a look at and funny enough, Tonutti appears at the end in a field of angelica.

A near term Bostonapothecary project in the pipeline is developing a low cost method of standardizing a botanical change as well as doing reasonable amounts of competitor analysis on a budget. I have done a lot of reading to make it happen and all that is left is to raise some funds for the glassware necessary. I’m slowly developing a consulting package for small scale distillers where we will spend an intensive weekend covering a few analysis and fabrication techniques plus learning how to use the vast collection of literature I’ve assembled.

Another project I’d like to tackle is developing beverage fabrication manuals to help new producers in the developing world capitalize on their assets in the booming craft economy. It would be nice to see areas that produce orange peels also producing orange liqueur instead of merely selling the peels for short dollars while the Cointreau’s of the world add only a little more value and reap some massive out-sized profits. Organizations like FAO with this handbook are funding such initiatives:

This handbook is part of a series of agribusiness manuals prepared by the FAO Investment Centre Division, in collaboration with FAO’s Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division. It was prepared for the EBRD Agribusiness team, under the FAO/EBRD programme of cooperation. The production of the manuals was financed by FAO and by the EBRD multidonor Early Transition Countries Fund and the Western Balkans Fund. The purpose of this handbook is to help agribusiness bankers and potential investors in the Early Transition countries (ETCs) and Western Balkan countries (WBCs) to acquire basic knowledge about the wine sector and to become acquainted with recent economic trends in the sector around the world, with a special focus on the ETCs and the WBCs. This volume was prepared by Frederic Julia, Wine Expert, and reviewed by Emmanuel Hidier, Senior Economist, FAO, as well as by members of the EBRD Agribusiness team. Electronic copies can be downloaded from www.eastagri.org, where a database of agribusiness companies, including wineries that operate in the ETCs and the WBCs, is also available. Please send comments and suggestions for a future edition of the manual to TCI-Eastagri@fao.org.

The Tribuno Papers

This document, which was about 14 typewriter pages, was written to the IRS by the executor of Mario P. Tribuno’s estate. The document was given to me by the executor of the son, John L. Tribuno’s estate. The story of the company and its founder are told as well as all liabilities explained in the hopes that this artisan company will be valuated lower for tax purposes while it is transferred from father to son in 1962. This paper was financially very important so it is very well organized and persuasive especially when it comes to the liabilities. I do not think much is exaggerated because eventually in the 1970’s domestic vermouths were being out advertised 20 to 1 by Italian companies.

Tribuno was at one point in time the biggest American vermouth company and had about a quarter of the domestic vermouth market. Their vermouth was considered by some to be the greatest ever made. The company ended up being sold to Coca-Cola in 1970’s where it is now just a shadow of its former self. The paper ultimately describes the company as a “one man organization” and after two generations there was a particularly rocky market and no one to pass the torch to. Coca-cola just couldn’t man up.

The Tribuno family started a fellowship at UC Davis in Mario P. Tribuno’s name to study vermouth and commissioned Maynard Amerine to create the Annotated Bibliography of Vermouth, which after being re-popularized on this very blog!, has launched quite a few ships. Sadly, with the declining popularity of vermouth, someone shortsightedly redirected the fellowship to the study of wine aroma.

This document is followup to a project I tackled more than five years ago. I had not searched for anything related to Tribuno in a while. At the bottom, below the document, are some links and one lists many of the botanicals in the Tribuno formula.


Mario P. Tribuno was born in 1882 in Torino, Italy. His father was a vineyardist and other members of the family were in the wine business.  Thus Mr. Tribuno had an early introduction to the business that as to become his life’s work.

In 1903, by arrangement with an uncle in California who was president of Italian Swiss Colony, a large wine producing organization, Mr. Tribuno came to the United States for the purpose of learning American methods of grape growing and wine making. He spent four years in California at the Italian Swiss Colony vineyards and plants. In 1907 he came East to serve the company as their eastern sales representative.

In 1909 Mr. Tribuno severed his connection with Italian Swiss Colony and went into business for himself as an importer of wines. Thereafter, he bought a California vineyard and continued in business until the event of prohibition as both an importer and domestic wine producer.

Shortly after the event of prohibition, in 1921, Mr. Tribuno organized California Grape Products, a California corporation. This company produced grape concentrate from its own vineyards as well as from purchased grapes. Mr. Tribuno continued in this business until the early 1930s, at which time he liquidated his interest. During 1926 Mr. Tribuno played a prominent part in the formation of Fruit Industries, now known as the California Wine Association, one of the largest wine cooperatives now in existence.

In 1935, shortly after repeal, Mr. Tribuno organized Vermouth Industries of America, Inc., a predecessor of the present Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. This venture, because of a 50% reduction of import duties, became economically untenable and the company was liquidated in 1939. The present Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. was incorporated in October 7, 1940.

Mr. Tribuno spent his entire business lifetime in various phases of the wine business. He was an expert on all phases of grape growing and wine and vermouth manufacture. His expertness was well known and widely recognized in the trade.

Today approximately 37% of all vermouth consumed in this country is imported from Europe and the balance, approximately 63%, is of domestic manufacture. Prior to prohibition practically all vermouth was imported. Only 5% of the total consumption was then manufactured domestically and that principally in California for local consumption within the state. In the early post-prohibition period, domestic wineries attempted to produce and sell vermouth. However, they met with little success in competing with the imported product. For the first six years after prohibition the consumption of domestic produced vermouth was not in excess of 15% of the total consumption.

With the event of World War II, foreign imports gradually dried up, and in the course of time there were no importations of vermouth from Europe whatsoever. Several Italian companies during the war years did establish vermouth making plants in Argentina and succeeded in importing Argentine manufactured vermouth into the U.S. However, this vermouth was of poor quality and did not meet with public acceptance.

During the World War II years the manufacture of domestic vermouth was greatly expanded to meet the demand created by the lack of importations. After the conclusion of the war, foreign shippers again brought their merchandise into the United States markets. With respect to more recent trends, the available statistics indicate that the total vermouth market during the period from 1949 through 1955, increased 88.9% whereas the United States vermouth increased 53%  and foreign vermouth increased 106.4% During this period the United States vermouth declined from 70% to 63% of the total market. The statistics reveal that a definite shift in favor of foreign vermouths is taking place.

At the present time hearings are pending before the United States Tariff Commission with regard to the reduction of duties on imported vermouths. The domestic vermouth industry is opposing such reduction. The outcome at this point is uncertain. However, any reduction that may be made in the present duties will result in immediate unfavorable financial consequences to the domestic vermouth industry and could possibly recreate the economic situation that led to the dissolution of the predecessor Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. in 1939.

Competition among vermouth producers is very keen. There are over 300 brands of imported vermouth and over 200 brands of domestic vermouth distributed in New York State. Martini & Rossi and Cinzano imported from Italy, and Noilly Prat imported from France account for approximately 70% of all foreign vermouth sold in the United States. Some other imported brands are: From Italy – Gancia and Cora, and from France – Broissoire. Many better hotels and restaurants and private clubs feature and serve imported vermouths exclusively. Some of these establishments, to name a few, are as follows: St. Regis Hotel, Longchamps Restaurant chain, Schrafft’s Restaurant chain, Yale Club, Racquet & Tennis Club, and such New York famous restaurants as Pavillon, Chateau Briand and Voison. Some popular brands of domestic vermouth made in the United State are: Gallo, G & D, Lejon, Hublein, and Roma.

Purchasers of vermouth fall into two categories: First, those individual consumers who purchase from retail outlets individual bottles for home consumption, and second, sales to restaurants, hotels, bars and to others who are in the business of vending food and drink. Both the individual buyer and the business buyer, because of the many brands available, are extremely price conscious, and the meeting of price competition is an important factor in the operation of the vermouth manufacturer.

Prior to World War II, domestically produced vermouths were made and distributed by relatively small organizations engaged solely in the wine business. Almost invariably these companies were inadequately financed and had no funds available for the exploitation of their product through nationwide advertising channels. With the event of World War II, the large liquor companies, in an effort to replace lost whisky volume, acquired wineries and thus established themselves in the wine and vermouth business. In 1942 Schenley acquired the Roma Wine Company, and the Roma brand of vermouth; in 1941 Hublein Brothers came on the market with a Hublein brand vermouth; in 1945 Hiram Walker acquired Valliant Vineyards, Inc. and marketed a Valliant brand vermouth. Only some six months ago Seagram-Distillers Corporation acquired Fromm & Sichel, and have brought onto the market a vermouth under the very popular label of Christian Brothers. Two of the large wine companies, Gallo Wine Company, with Gallo vermouth, and Italian Swiss Colony with the Lejon and G & D brands, have, in the last two years, begun to extensively feature and advertise their vermouth line.

The entry of the large corporation in to the wine and vermouth business has forced out of the industry many of the small independents, in many instances by the bankruptcy route. The large companies operating on substantial advertising budgets are exploiting wines and vermouths on a national basis via the radio, television, newspaper and magazine media. Their willingness and capacity to spend advertising dollars dwarfs the advertising budget of an independent such as Vermouth Industries of America, Inc., which company has never spent more than $50,000 a year on all forms of advertising. Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. is faced with the bleak prospect that in the course of time the greater advertising expenditures by larger and wealthier competitors will result in a serious loss of business.

Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. occupies approximately 20,000 square feet of space on the street floor and basement floors at 420 West 45 Street, New York City. The space is rented at an annual rental of $17,000. The office as well as the manufacturing facilities are located on these premises. The company has no other facilities elsewhere.

The company’s cooperage capacity is 195,000 gallons, consisting of approximately 80 tanks of varying capacity. Approximately 40% of the cooperage was erected fifteen years ago with the balance being added through the intervening years. The cost of new cooperage is today some 18¢ a gallon. However, the resale value is only 1¢ a gallon because the principal cost of cooperage is the labor coast of erecting the tanks. The principal mechanical equipment in use in the winery is the bottling line. The company owns one bottling line, the value of which in new condition is approximately $12,000. The companies does not own any plant assets which any substantial appreciation over book values and in general, the balance sheet of the company reflects a fair approximation of the in-place value of the plant and equipment.

The company does not own its own vineyards and therefore all of its base wines must be purchased. It has been the custom of the company to contract each year with two California wineries for its needs. From time to time additional spot purchases of wine are made as conditions dictate. Wine supplies are purchased for one to two years’ needs. There have been marked fluctuations in the cost of wine, which is one of the principal cost ingredients of vermouth. The manufacturer of vermouth must invariably shoulder the brunt of increased costs, although he may also profit in a reverse situation. The inability of the finished product to readily reflect changes in basic costs makes the vermouth manufacturing business highly speculative.

The quality of vermouth is a factor ranking equally in importance with that of price. Vermouth is a wine flavored with herbs and roots. It originated in Italy some two hundred years ago. It was first used as an aperitif and drunk straight and is still so consumed today in European and Latin speaking countries. However, is today used in the United States principally as an cocktail ingredient. The sweet type or Italian type is used in the marking of Manhattan cocktails, and the dry or French type is used for the Martini and dry Manhattan cocktails.

Some thirty odd herbs and roots gathered from every continent of the world are used to make the extract which is used to flavor the wine. The extract is made by macerating several hundred pounds of herbs and roots and soaking them in wine for several months. At the end of the soaking period the wine, which is now called extract, is drained off and is aged for a period of six months or more. Approximately 1% of the extract is added to the base wine along with sugar, citric acid, caramel and other ingredients, varied as required, to make either the sweet or dry vermouth. After a period of aging, the vermouth is then filtered and bottled.

The flavor and character of the vermouth is imparted to the product by the extract. The United States Government requires that the vermouth producer file with the Government a list of all the herbs and roots which go to make the extract. However, the Government does not require that the formula show the relative quantities of the various botanicals used. This is the vermouth makers secret. Only minute quantities of some herbs are used and there are but two herbs that are common to both the sweet and dry type of vermouth.

The formulas used by the company for dry and sweet vermouth were developed by Mr. Mario P. Tribuno, the decedent, and label on each bottle of vermouth bears the legend that “This vermouth is made solely from selected California wines and imported herbs according to the original formulas of Mr. M. P. Tribuno.” At the present time the formulas are known only to Mr. John Tribuno, son of Mario. To provide for emergencies and to permit continued production of the vermouth, the formulas have been placed by Mr. John Tribuno in a vault, access to which is available on his death to his heirs.

The making of vermouth is therefore an art rather than a science. There is no stability or consistency in the botanicals used. Because of changing climatic and soil conditions each harvest produces roots and herbs somewhat different in character from previous crops. It is the vemrouth-makers art to blend with each batch of extract manufactured the 30-odd herbs and roots in such quantities so that the end result will yield a vermouth of a standard and uniform quality. Mr. Mario P. Tribuno, the decedent, during all of his years as president of Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. personally made and supervised the making of the vermouth extract and the finished vermouth according to his own secret formulas. The only person to whom the decedent had imparted his formulas and methods is his son, John Tribuno, who today is head of the company and is carrying on the work of his father. The real test of whether or not the art of vermouth making has successfully been imparted from father to son will soon come with the exhaustion of the supplies of extract manufactured under the aegis of the decedent. The drinking public is sensitive to subtle changes in taste and quality and great harm will result unless the company is able to continue to turn out a vermouth containing those characteristics of taste and quality which have created a place for Tribuno vermouth in a highly competitive market.

Vermouth Industries of America, Inc. remains a “one man” organization. John Tribuno is present, production head, general manager, “21” Brands liaison man and general factotum. The company has in its employ no other persons capable of continuing the work of John Tribuno and should he resign, become incapacitated, die or for any reason whatsoever be unavailable, the company would be unable to maintain the continuity of product quality, and generally financial loss would result on his removal from the Vermouth Industries picture.

The company distributes its product nationally through a sole distributor, “21” Brands, Inc. a prominent firm in the industry, whose operation consists of handling a line of liquor and wine products on an exclusive basis. Some of the lines it handles exclusively in addition to Tribuno vermouth are Ballantine Scotch, Hine Cognac, Boca Chica Rum and Martini wines. “21” Brands distributes directly to retail liquor stores, restaurants, bars and grills, etc. in the borough of Manhattan. Elsewhere “21” Brands acts as a jobber or primary distributor and sells the Tribuno vermouth to other distributors who in turn sell to their local customers, that is, the liquor stores, restaurants, etc.

Vermouth Industries invoices all of its shipments to “21” Brands, Inc. and Vermouth Industries has no contact whatsoever with the customers of “21” Brands, Inc.

The relationship with “21” Brands, Inc. originated in 1941. The initial agreement was set forth in a give year written contract which was not renewed at the expiration of its original terms. Since 1946, all arrangements have been made orally and there is no written contract in existence between the parties at the present time.

In 1941, “21” Brands, Inc. acquired by purchase an 18% stock interest in Vermouth Industries. They own 250 shares of the total outstanding stock of 1,450 shares. As stockholders of Vermouth Industries “21” Brands, Inc. is represented on the Board of Directors of Vermouth Industries and of course receives all financial reports of the company.

As matters now stand, “21” Brands, Inc. is the sole customer of Vermouth Industries. Vermouth Industries has no access to the real distributors of the product, that is, the liquor stores, restaurants, etc. and “21” Brands, Inc. is under no obligation to furnish such a list to Vermouth Industries. Since there is no contract with “21” Brands, Inc. they may at their own pleasure terminate the existing relationship. Recent events have given the Vermouth Industries management some cause for concern. Within the last month it was announced that “21” Brands, Inc. had acquired a distillery in Kentucky for the purpose of manufacturing their own whiskeys for distribution under their existing brand name of Club Special. The acquisition of a distillery represents a departure on the part of “21” Brands, Inc. from their previous method of operation. Without question, increases costs of operation, higher salesmens’ commissions, wages, freight rates and the general price increases which have characterized our economy of recent years, has compelled “21” Brands, Inc.to seek increased profits through expanding their operation to include manufacturing as well as distributing with the purpose of earning for themselves the manufacturers’ as well as distributor’s profit. The extension of such thinking on the part of “21” Brands, Inc. could have calamitous results insofar as Vermouth Industries is concerned. Vermouth Industries, without any access to the ultimate customer, would find itself in a difficult position to continue the distribution of its product without interruption should “21” Brands, Inc.for one reason or another be forced to or decide to discontinue its distribution of Tribuno vermouth.

At the inception of the relationship with “21” Brands, Inc. the price charged by Vermouth Industries to “21” Brands, Inc.was a matter of arms length bargaining between the parties. However, as heretofore related, “21” Brands, Inc. soon became a stockholder of Vermouth Industries and thus obtained access to Vermouth Industries financial figures and its affairs generally. As a result of such information “21” Brands, Inc. has continually brought pressure for price adjustments and other concessions which have had the result of effectively reducing the sales price of the product by Vermouth Industries to “21” Brands, Inc. For example, Vermouth Industries now pays all of the advertising bills and reimburses “21” Brands, Inc. for all or a substantial portion of expenditures made by them in connection with the sales promotion of Tribuno vermouth. The business and future of Vermouth Industries is subject to all of the infirmities and risks that result from having but a single customer, complicated in this case by the fact that the customer has a minority interest in the supplier company.

The liquor business, of which the wine industry is one branch, is without question the most highly regulated industry of its size in our economy. There is strict regulation of the industry at all government levels, federal, state and local. The Alcohol and Tax Division of the United States as they apply to alcoholic beverages including wines and vermouths. No one may engage in the liquor business unless a basic permit is obtained from the Division. The issuance of such a permit is a permissive act and is not mandatory on the part of the authorities. The Division controls ever facet of its permittees’ business operation. It determines production standards and methods of manufacture. Its rulings, which it may make arbitrarily, may and do have financial consequences to the manufacturers. For example, about a year ago the Division issued a ruling change a traditional vermouth production practice that had been in use in the industry, with government sanction, since 1933, with the result that this change in method increased the cost to make the vermouth about 8¢ a gallon. The Division also controls selling and distribution practices. For example, no alcoholic goods may be sold on consignment. Labels must be submitted for approval. Advertising programs are subject to review by the Division, and in like manner the whole conduct of the business operation is under the scrutiny and control of the Division.

The State of New York, through the State Liquor Authority by means of permissive licensing, again duplicates all of the controls of the federal government. The State Liquor Authority of New York State also controls credit practices and wholesale and retail pricing. No person can be an officer, director or substantial stockholder of a licensed liquor manufacturer, distributor or retailer without the approval of federal and state authorities. All of the various states in which the sale of alcoholic beverages is legal have Boards similar to the New York State, State Liquor Authority.

Because of these government controls the business of Vermouth Industries may be placed in jeopardy not only because of the wrong doings of its own employees, officers, and directors, but may also be placed in jeopardy by reason of the wrong doings of its distributor “21” Brands, Inc. over whose affairs of course Vermouth Industries has no exercise or control.

Instances of permittees who have sustained great financial loss because of the inability to secure license renewals are well known in the industry. These incidents involve permittees at all levels, manufacturers, distributors and retail liquor stores. A few years ago the State Liquor Authority of New York State refused to renew the license of International Distributors, Inc., a large New York company. This company was unsuccessful in its efforts in the courts to compel the state authorities to issue the license and the company closed its doors and went out of business. This company was the exclusive distributor of a well known scotch, Kings Ransom, and it is a safe surmise that all the suppliers of International Distributors were to some extent adversely affected and suffered financial loss as a result of the sudden cessation of the distribution of their products. Longchamps, Inc. was closed by the New York State Liquor Authority some years ago because of violation of the state’s credit regulations. Longchamps gave credit to its patrons for liquor consumed in the restaurant contrary to state regulations. As a result of this violation the bars of all the Longchamps restaurants were ordered closed, and this situation resulted in the sale of the restaurant to new owners at a price reputed to be 25% to 50% of the value of the business had Longchamps not been in violation of the State Liquor Authority regulations. Ilsa Wine and Liquor Company, a retail store, repudiately incurred legal fees in excess of $50,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to compel the issuance of it of a license by the New York State Liquor Authority which had refused to renew on the grounds of alleged violations.

The stock of publicly held liquor companies which are traded on stock exchanges, reflect in the relationships of book value to market price the uncertainties of the industry. In this day of inflated values and booming stock markets, the liquor stocks for the most part are priced below book values. Some current book values and market prices are as follows:

Book           Market
Value           Value
American Distilling                       $38.23        $23.00
Distillers-Seagram                         40.33          35.00
National Distillers                           24.93          25.00
Schenley Industries                       52.63          19.00
Brown-Forman Distilling Co.         21.39          19.00


Talk. Visit to the Vermouth Industries of America, Inc., one of the largest vermouth-blending cellars, underneath 420 West 45 St. (between 9 and 10 Ave.) Proprietors are Mario P. and John L. Tribuno, father and son. Alcoholic content of vermouth must match label specifications. The elder Tribuno worked out the formula, more or less as a hobby, during prohibition days. The vermouth is made of white wine plus wormwood, the basic herb. They use a fortified sherry-type wine and some of the herbs used are: angelica, tonka bean, hyssop, orrisroot, rosemary, elder flower, sage, sweet marjoram, nutmeg, orange peel, and lemon peel. It is aged for about a year, and it takes a year and a half to get a batch of extract ready for mixing. – John Brooks October, 6th 1951, The New Yorker


For those with a Time Magazine subscription, here is a great article with John L. Tribuno from 1955.

PAR. 6. As a result of its Tribuno acquisition, New York Coca-Cola is the largest producer of vermouth in the United States. Tribuno holds a 12.3 percent share of the total vermouth market, and its share of domestically produced vermouth is 24 percent. Thus Tribuno ranks first among all domestic sellers of vermouth and second among all producers of vermouth. –FTC June 1979


Until its acquisition by Coke-New York, Tribuno had been a family-owned company in New Jersey bottling and blending vermouth under its trademark in its plant in New Jersey. Some vermouth was also botted for Tribuno by A. Perelli-Minetti & Sons, Delano, California from whom Tribuno also purchased bulk wine for its bottling plant in New Jersey

Tribuno did face a boycott at one point in time (1967) due to association with Perelli-Minetti. Mario Tribuno might have been associated with Perelli-Minetti since prohibiton where the produced grape concentrate for home wine making.

Back to Class with Maynard Amerine

Long ago I recovered a VHS of super star California oenologist Maynard Amerine giving a wine tasting lesson and had it digitized sight unseen so I could put it on youtube. The video turned out to be a 15 minute, horribly boring flop. It might have been the first of a series that was never continued.

Recently I checked up on that video and via a search for Maynard Amerine, it appears that UC Davis has uploaded a series of old 50 minute black & white lectures of Amerine’s from the early 1970’s.  These videos are an absolute treasure trove of insights into the history of modern wine making.

In the 15 minute video, Amerine, the world’s foremost wine scientist, is horribly dry and uninteresting but in his lectures he has the students laughing quite often although overall he is rather clinical. He tells short industry stories often and gives an intensely pragmatic vibe to what these days has become an often obnoxiously fetishized art.  What these days is presented as art, is not ancient, does not bypass new advancements in oenology, and is absolutely built on the backs of relatively recent government sponsored oenology research.

Amerine is simultaneously loved and loathed in the industry and two vermouth producing friends of the cocktail have presented me over the years with somewhat opposing views.  Andrew Quady of Vya fame was a student of Amerine’s and is I suspect an admirer while Carl Sutton of Sutton Cellars vermouth fame (and one of my favorite California dry wine producers), who is much younger than Quady, was always taught to be weary of Amerine.

The teachings of Amerine were a big force in homogenizing wine and allowing production to scale up to volumes where wine was made in silos.  Amerine’s lectures seem to continuously be emphasizing a low risk wine making style that many people today are thankfully rebelling against. It should be noted that Amerine lived in a different world where nearly every wine you tasted had common flaws.  Today by comparison, nearly all technical flaws have been eradicated and now when people find them, they mistake their low frequency of occurrence for a reflection of terroir. For shame!

When you spend time with the videos you can see why Amerine was risk averse.  Wine making across the world still had a foot in the dark ages in the 1970’s. He opens a reputable Borolo for the students and notes that it had a volatile acid (vinegar!) that was readily discernible. He also notes how many other wines stink of sulfur.  These days we have well proven guidelines for adding and maintaining sulfur and it is accurately measured and adjusted at numerous phases in the wine making process while back then if a winemaker had no lab skills, correct sulfur was probably only nailed by luck.

According to Amerine, Chianti in the 60’s and 70’s was still using the governo process of adding semi dried grapes to increase alcohol similar to Amarone.  This is something they abandoned and something few people are aware ever happened today.  Grape picking in much of the world was done not to brix / acid values, but to other strange cues like visible shriveling of the grapes.  Now we can have intellectual debates with Dennis Dubourdieu about oenological ripeness, but back then they were just scraping by and trying to fit picking in with their other chores.  Wine making was more ethanol centric and less flavor centric.  Origin controls were just starting to be implemented that would shape the European industry over the next three or four decades promoting a flavor centric approach.  Government sponsored research moved the industry forward in a way that it probably doesn’t get credit for.

To bring it back to Vermouth, long ago I had hypothesized that the reason people made vermouth and refined it into such a high art was that their tastes were often so far beyond their ability to produce stable & interesting tables wines. I don’t think anybody took the idea seriously because to understand it, you would have to under what table wine actually used to be like. Spending time with Amerine’s lectures readily supports my hypothesis (which I got from reading nearly all of Amerine’s books).

I could discuss countless of the little stories Amerine mentions but one of the most interesting is the use of new barrels in the industry which is a sort of chicken and egg scenario.  Extrapolating from Amerine, the reason the industry went on to fall in love with new barrels was because they were easier to take care of. This came before consumer demand which went on to exacerbate it.  Moldy barrels fouling the wine was a giant problem for the industry. If you weren’t good at taking care of your barrels, you simply bought new barrels every season, especially when you could command prices that supported the practice. In California, the love of new barrels may have started with risk aversion, lack of skill, and laziness.

Economists as well as Wall street types that love the adage: wine, women, and money, not necessarily in that order, might really benefit from studying the modern history of wine making, especially those that do not understand that there is a time and place for both public and private investment.  Government investment in a luxury product, wine, elevated the fortunes of large regions and again, so successfully you probably wouldn’t give the government any credit.  This advancement would have never been possible by private industry alone because multiple decades of foresight was necessary.  Margins were also low which is something that hinders private investment.  The studies also had to be coordinated over large, diverse areas and across simultaneously cooperating & competing countries to be successful which is something private investment likely could not negotiate.  When so many 1%ers try to recklessly slash government spending, it might be helpful to remember that something so near and dear to our hearts as wine would be nowhere with out it.

Italian Wines and Vermouth

Special and Flavored Wines

French Wines: Part One

French Wines: Part Two

Present State of Grape Growing and Winemaking

California Wines

California Wines and Red Wines

Lecture Review ** This lecture is more unique and interesting than the name implies. When he explains the Delle stabilization concept, I think he ends up hinting at the secret to Aperol’s low alcohol content relative to any other amaro or aromatized wine. The same goes for Cynar but less so. This is also a concept we can probably use for home vermouth making or even syrup making for special scenarios such as the consulting I do with Have Shaker Will Travel in the tropics. To push a 400 g/L syrup up to 80 Delle units, the alcohol content needs to be only 10.66% which is completely natural relative to additives like potassium sorbate and fairly affordable.  Delle stabilization can also change the way I’ve constructed alcohol preserved Maraschino cherries in the past.

Aperol has a specific gravity of 1.082 which puts its estimated sugar content not too far over 230 g/L. 230 g/L is about 20 brix so 20+(4.5*11) only puts Aperol at 69.5 Delle units so who knows what is going on with Aperol but there are more anecdotes by Amerine in this paper that show beverages being stable at far less than 80 DU.

Final Lecture

The WineMine Chronicles

I’ve collected texts on wine and spirits for years and Peter Dominic’s WineMine quarterly form the 1960’s and 1970’s has become my new obsession. WineMine may have been some of the first advanced foodie writing. The culture that Dominic and others like Andre Simon created is likely responsible for our modern world of fine wines. They educated people on fine wine and developed a market for it. Prices of wines they highly regarded skyrocketed and eventually other producers raised their quality to participate in this new fine wine market. The world of wine eventually fell into it. Once great wines were finally recognized and competed for, the investment required to make more of them across the globe was put into place.

WineMine was more than just about wine. it is also about food and travel and humor. The articles are still wildly interested after so many decades. The writing also gives us an excellent look at spirits and liqueurs of the era especially in then far flung places like rural france.

I’ll start to point out the highlights in a haphazard way and maybe even re-type the good bits. Journalist James Cameron has written my favorite article so far in issue #24 winter of 1972.

The first article that needs attention is A La Votre by retired journalist Joe Hollander from issue #25 from 1973. Hollander retired to rural France and writes of Provencal drinks “both above and below the legal line”.

Above the legal line:

“As for aperitifs and digestifs, apart from intensely publicized products like Dubonnet, St. Raphael and Byrrh, and Benedictine and Chartreuse, the floridly labelled bottles of Banyuls, Grenache and Muscat, all naturally sweet wines, and of Verveine de Velay, Izzara, Mandarin, Ambassadeur and other imaginative designations, are seldom disturbed from their resting places behind the bar and their labels would appear to serve mainly a decorative purpose. I have never yet seen anyone order a Suze (based on Gentian bitters), or a Bonal, prepared with Peruvian quinquina bark.

Below the legal line:

“Throughout the Midi there’s a more or less universal, if not exactly legal, cottage production of spirituous beverages going on behind the shutters of village houses.”

“Like most country women, Madame Allegre has probably never bought a bottle of branded aperitif or liqueur over the counter in her life. Nor have I ever seen a Vin de Noix, a Vin de Marquis, or a Peach Leaf aperitif served in any auberge, bar, bistrot, brasserie, buvette, cafe, estaminet, guingette or tavern in France–to say nothing of a liqueur 44, made of oranges and 44 coffee beans!”

“Madame Allegre take two average-size oranges, chiseling their skins so that she can insert 22 coffee beans between the peel and pulp of each. She then steeps the larded oranges in one litre of Eau-de-Vie, together with 22 lumps of No 3 size sugar (the popular domino-shaped sucre de Marseille) and a stick of vanilla. She keeps this infusion going for 44 days (that magic number again!), shaking it from time to time until the sugar is completely dissolved. She then removes the orange, presses them and pours back the juice they yield into the liqueur mixture, which can then be bottled and stored in a cool place.”

“For her Vin de Noix, seven walnuts are first steeped in a litre of Eau-de-Vie to produce the basic cordial. A quarter litre of this extract, together with 15 to 20 lumps of sugar, are then mixed with one litre of good red wine to yield two pints of Walnut Wine. The heart-warming thought is that you still have enough basic cordial in reserve to make another eight bottles.”

“The Widow Audibert, Madame Allegre’s neighbor, specializes in making a Vin de Marquis, otherwise known as Vin d’Orange. There are multiple variations of the formula; some use only the orange peel, some use the whole orange, flesh, pips and juice, others add one or more lemons. The wine used can be a robust red, white, or rose; eau-de-vie or cognac in varying quantities is essential, so is sugar. By experimenting, I have found the recipe A la Veuve Audibert to be not only excellent but the most economical.

Five whole, and preferably bitter, oranges cut up into the smallest possible chunks, with a lemon given the same treatment, are popped into a large glass or earthenware receptacle (I use a 10-litre glass bonbonne which I can cork) to which is added a kilogram, say 2/1/4 lb, of ordinary white lump sugar (some specify granulated sugar; others advocate pure cane sugar), then five litres of good red wine and one litre of eau-de-vie. Final additives are a stick or two of vanilla and a baby’s fistful of quinquina or Peruvian bark, obtainable from a chemist or herbalist.

Shake the receptacle well and repeat this at least once a day for a fortnight–but a month is preferably better. Using a large wire kitchen strainer to collect the orange debris, I then decant into bottles and find that I then have over six litres, or eight pint bottles, of first-class aperitif or dessert wine for around 30 francs (about £2.50) which is good going in any currency.

An Antillaise, based on a recipe that the Widow Audibert’s son brought back from Guadaloupe, requires strips of the skins of two fresh tangerines and one orange to be placed in a small bottle, together with a stick of vanilla, split and cut into small pieces, all then being covered with a quantity of rum taken from a litre bottle. Let this mixture infuse for a fortnight, then add the resulting extract to the remaining rum and a syrup made by boiling 1/2 kilo of sugar in a slightly lesser volume of water for ten minutes.”

Bostonapothecary; A Retrospective

I’ve written quite a lot of posts over the years so I thought it might be time to make a top ten list of the coolest things that have happened at the bostonapothecary. If you look back at older posts the evolution of my ideas is quite apparent. I’ve kept the old posts up to show where I’ve been.

The content is definitely getting more neuroscience-y and more linguistic in nature. Some of the older posts focus on analytic techniques like hydrometry & refractometry, and distillation. I never really posted a lot of cocktail recipes here because this blog was just a counterpart to participating in egullet.

It might help first to show what people were most interested in (ranked by hits):

1. Dry rum & dry gin I like mine wet. This post started as a look at the acidity of spirits which I was never able to revisit. Countless people were referred to the post by search terms such as “pH of gin” or “acidity of gin”. I think people find the aroma of juniper to converge with gustatory-acidity and therefore wonder if there is non-volatile acid in the gin. These constant queries support my idea of categorizing aromas in terms of gustation. With this method juniper would be olfactory-acid.

2. Ice wine grenadine. This post really blew up after Dave Viola linked to it in the first comment of Jeffrey Morganthaler’s recipe for Grenadine. Morganthaler must get an astounding amount of hits if I get so many from him. It is a great recipe and you can do pretty astounding things with the technique. As widely read as the recipe was, I’ve never heard of a bar program actually using it. Slackers. It is bonkers ridiculous.

3. Vermouth: Its Production & Future. This is good stuff. When I started collecting all the sources in Maynard Amerine’s Annotated Bibliography of Vermouth many of the sources were from mid century wine & vines and unfortunately not yet indexed by google. I inter-library loaned them all, re-typed them, and made them more easily available. My bar program back at Dante was the first to make its own aromatized wines and now there are several hundred around the country. I re-typed several other articles from Wine & Vines such as Developing the Vermouth Formula, The Importance of Vermouth, Revolution in Vermouth, Vermouth… Some Practical Hints, and Gold Medal Sweet Vermouth. All of the study of vermouth helped me get into practical wine analysis such as using refractometers and hydrometers which really took my bar prep to a new level.

4. Deconstructing Campari. An astounding amount of people wonder if Campari has sugar. In many cases I suspect it is for the sake of calorie counting, but I also think many searchers have some sort of sensory curiosity. I was making versions of Campari where I dehydrated it and reconstituted the non-volatile fraction with another spirit to the same alcohol content. What I found is that volatile-olfactory-bitterness (lost when you dehydrate!) is astoundingly important to defining the character of Campari. My reconstituted versions lacked this aroma-of-bitterness until I redistilled those spirits with wormwood. I also went so far as to grow rock candy in bottles of Campari but they picked up no bitterness. What I have left to do now is cut Campari in half with a vacuum still and then precipitate the sugar out of Campari (such as how the rock candy grew) then rejoin the two halves. I can then reshape campari into lower sugar, higher alcohol styles of amaro like fernet, malort, or gammel dansk. I could even re-add the volume of subtracted sugar with a source of my choice such as a strawberry tree honey.

5. Deconstructing Sweet Vermouth. People wondered over to this post with a curiosity for how much sugar sweet vermouth had. My methods for revealing sugar content grew over the years making this post obsolete. Now I favor hydrometry and have found specific gravity tables to reach low enough alcohol contents to measure the aromatized wines. Unfortunately I suspect my margin of error is 30 g/L.

6. Chamberyzette. When curiosity for aromatized wines grew, curiosity for what the hell Chamberyzette is also grew. It is hard to believe that it is not imported. I was told once that their production is in a sad state and had degenerated into artificial flavors. I made replicas for a while by manipulating bianco vermouths but eventually M&R rose vermouth became imported and I fell in love with it.

7. Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients. This guy is pretty wild. The book is a two volume tome on artificial flavors but has an extraordinary chapter on constructing amaros which shows that many of these super-consultant flavor chemists were interested and involved in the amaro trade. Fenaroli describes “special effects” and techniques of creating differentials of expectation and anticipation in amaros such as distilling a bitter principle then re-infusing that distillate with more of the bitter principle to end up with something like 2x olfactory-bitterness 1x gustatory-bitterness.

8. Bombardino! Dante’s aunt Anna turned me on to this Italian specialty. She said as a child she was too poor to afford cream so she would put tempered egg yolks in her coffee. My recipe got a little bit of an update with fluid gels are our future but it should probably be updated again since I’ve learned a lot more about it.

9. Sweet Potato “fly”. This is just awesome and the idea has taken my ginger beer to a new level. The sweet potato ginger beer post needs a bit of an update now that I’ve developed a new carbonation technique. I think I also need to re-evaluate how much spice I get from the ginger skins. The best results might come by heating the skins in ginger juice or going the all cayenne route. I juice my ginger while others only macerate. After I juice I probably need to make a tea from the separated skins to capture their piquancy. Those that just macerate with cut up ginger may get the piquancy but lack a lot of aroma from the juice.

10. Hand Made Creole Shrubb. Creole Shrubb is awesome and it has been a pleasure to watch it become more accessible over the years. Unfortunately for the Clements, I loved Creole Shrubb so much I started making my own. I took an exploration of orange liqueurs pretty far and even ended up reconstructing Joseph Konig’s curacao from 1879 and learned the secret of its sugar content (maximum of solubility!). My technique of assembly became really good and I think I could quickly make all the orange liqueurs at a very high quality level for my next bar program. We used only house-made orange liqueur for my last year at Dante which probably only added up to 50 liters.

11. Amer Picon Replica. There is a lot of interest in Amer Picon but I kind of gave up on it. I fell in love with Cynar and it was enough for me. In the end I suspected what everyone was missing was a focus on tonality of orange aroma and Picon’s was likely modified from an aromatic sugar source like malt. If you think about it, Picon & beer could only be relevant so long as it was cheaper than the Chimay it set out of emulate. This Belgium ale role model also reveals the secret of its aromas. I’ve learned a lot more about the aroma of grains recently so maybe I’ll pick it back up again. My flaked rye aromatized bourbon might warp into a sexy flaked rye aromatized triple-sec.

12. Reward System Theories. An astounding amount of people are searching for these terms but I don’t really know why. The ideas are gigantic and the implications are far reaching. I hope to take it further. I wish some people would comment!

13. Sweet Rebellion: a short theory of acquired tastes and an unsavory explanation of harmony. A growing amount of people are interested in acquired tastes. Acquired tastes are under appreciated and a theory of them will contribute answers to 100 million dollar questions. If through spreading acquired tastes we can cut empty calories from the American diet the results might be worth hundreds of millions in health care savings.

14. A theory of wine-food interaction. This is awesome stuff and I’m glad a lot of people have read it. It did unfortunately generate no real dialogue. I updated some ideas here in contrast enhancement (in space and time) for wine & food interaction. All the explanations we need to understand pairings are contained (but he makes to direct connections!) in Gordon M. Shephard’s Neurogastronomy.

15. Hercules: A liqueur interpretation or replica. Hercules is pretty cool. I revisited some of the bottles from this post recently after they slept for almost four years and wow were they extraordinary. All the interest Erik Ellestad has generated in the Savoy has generated a lot of interest in Hercules. It is wildly avante-garde in concept but so elegant as it goes down. I need to make this again and see if I can find any other notes I took pertaining to its construction.

Now here is my top picks for what people should be checking out.

1. Advanced Aroma Theory Basics. This is my crowning achievement and is an excerpt from my book on distillation. I explain the history of many of our metaphors. I cover their chemistry as well as their neuroscience (though that could be beefed up) and I give ideas for how many of them could be usefully elaborated. The language learned dramatically increases flavor literacy. Wild things happen with literacy’s fragmentation. Patterns emerge that can guide our creativity. Marshall Macluhan describes the gift of literacy as being able to act with out reacting. Many writers like Barb Stuckey are now thinking flavor literacy is important to controlling food cravings (detachment!). This new set of language is also the basis for understanding wine pairings. Other cool exercises in language are the Attentional Features Primer or Advanced Oversimplification Basics; The Ordinary and the Extraordinary.

2. Advanced Wine & Food Interaction. Here I start to explain all the contrast enhancement that happens in wine and food interaction. My first set of ideas started here and many got refined and validated by Gordon M. Shephard’s Neurogastronomy. The future of this lies in wrapping articulate language around the mach bands that are formed in a pairing (a mach band being the “line” over which contrast enhancement changes). Neurogastronomy explains what happens in the mind but we cannot make any practical use of it until we have a more advanced set of metaphors to unravel the synaesthetic experience of perceiving flavor. If olfactory-sweetness converges with gustatory-sweetness, language creates the awareness to differentiate the two. We cannot find patterns without language! Almost seven years ago back at Dante I started to create a new language for categorizing wine pairings and explaining all the reactions that happen. My first post ever was describing Maccheroncelli Primavera with Falanghina. I even explored cheese and vermouth pairings. I think I stopped with this interesting one. My goal now is to revisit all the holy grail pairings from WTDWWYD with a few friends and describe all the reactions in terms of mach bands. Very expensive. I need some sort of grant money to take it where it needs to go.

3. Measure carbonation with a kitchen scale. This is very big because handling carbonation well has been so elusive for beverage programs. I’ve tried everything (one bar in Vegas adopted this bottle carbonation technique) and I’ve spent thousands. I even described the limitations of bottling under pressure. I’ve even gone so far as to build a plastic foundry to produce my own equipment. After much work I can report carbonation is solved. My new product is a Champagne bottle manifold with Cornelius quick disconnects. The dissolved gas added to the liquid is simply measured on a kitchen scale that can handle a tenth of a gram. The dissolved gas has a weight and that weight is easy to measure (7g/L for highly carbonated sodas). You can even estimate if you want. I just acquired an Ohaus kitchen scale that can do 4 kilos by a tenth of a gram ($200) so now I can precisely measure the gas I add to Champagne magnums! I can even apply gorgeous counter pressure to sparkling wines. I can even add extra gas to beers! My product will soon be on sale for $100 then all you will need is a gas tank, regulator, and a nice kitchen scale. Solved, done, boom, and you serve out of gorgeous Champange bottles! Once they absorb enough gas you take off the manifold and put on a bottle cap (size 29mm). This could cost a bar $500 to do it right (tank, regulator, a few manifolds, scale, bottle-capper) but if you are smart you can take your new skill set and switch over your ISI whippers in the kitchen to cheaper tank gas using these new high end quick disconnects. That $500 will melt away quickly in saved cartridges. Performance will also go up! This will all be covered in my next post. If your restaurant says they can’t afford it buy your own fucking equipment! When you prove its a good idea, maybe they’ll pay you back. More to come!

4. Sweet Rebellion: A Short Theory of Acquired Tastes and an Unsavory Explanation of Harmony. This was pretty cool. It is unfortunately an ignored field of study. It went a little further in Culinary Aestheticism: A Tale of Two Harmonies where I attempt to explain how the symbolic world manipulates the harmonic bounds of the sensory world and vice versa. This stuff is critical to taking the empty calories out of our diets and adding new food sources to our diets such as they’ve been doing at Noma in Copenhagen. If we as a society would do something with these ideas we might shave billions off our health care budget. An entire country of black coffee drinkers? I could slash diabetes by 20%. MacArthur foundation help a brother out? I need to somehow finance an experimental gastronomy programs to learn more about this stuff.

5. Using simple hydrometry to find the sugar content of commercial liqueurs. This took many false starts and a winding path. Hopefully I made amends for bad refractometer advice I gave Eric Seed years ago. My first method for accurately revealing sugar contents had me sacrificing large sample sizes which was really expensive. This technique can be a really useful tool for bars making their own nano scale products or commercial producers trying make locally sourced and produced clones of commercial products. The chart can also help find patterns and almost quantify acquired tastes into numbers and ratios. Every bar should own a hydrometer.

6. Advanced Superstimuli Basics. I thought it was particularly cool to compare cocktails to super normal stimuli. The two guys that discovered the concept won the nobel prize! Understanding them can help us make more therapeutic drinks. An understanding founded in the culinary arts can also help us recognize them in other aspects of our lives where they are often dangerous. Nature published a paper on Flavor Networks and Food Pairings which got tons of attention but they never made any connections to the superstimuli phenomenon that is the motive of all our creative linkage. I’d love to get a hold of their data and computational expertise. I suspect a better understanding of all these things will help us take on more food sources as the pressure for sustainability grows.

7. Advanced Kegging Basics. This was the beginning of cocktails on tap and it turned into a phenomenon. I hear that almost every new bar in SF has a cocktail on tap program. Apparently the two or three people I influence are astoundingly influential. One of the first times it got put to the test was when I made cocktails for 400 with my crazy boss. Much of it started with a method of faking wine on tap to prove that there was a market and consumers wouldn’t be scared of it. Wine was simply taken out of bottles and put into kegs. Fake it till you make it! With the kegs you can also do stuff like pressure filtration. Worlds largest whip cream canister! I also suspect you can use kegs and some sort of cavitation technique to de-gas large volumes of liquids that other people have used centrifuges to do (you blast it with nitrogen to force the oxygen and CO2 out of solution. I think it works similarly to the process of pressure casting plastic or bronze). And all the equipment is really affordable!

8. Basket Pressed Pineapple Juice. This was wildly successful and yet again I don’t think any bar programs have picked up on it. I acquired a small (five gallon) home cider maker’s press and tried to see what besides apples could go in it. Pineapples were the most extraordinary because people have such a hard time juicing them. Strawberries were beautiful (either freeze/thaw them or soak them in hot water to loosen the pectin). The press will allow your prep to scale up dramatically. I started accumulating gallons of juice from the peak of various seasons in my freezer to unleash later on the thirsty hoards. The press was only about $400 compared to the $1000 of a large capacity centrifugal juicer that can’t even handle all the fruits as well (they also aerate the juice killing its lifespan).

9. Nano-distillation. In the end I wrote an entire yet to be published book about exploring beverage distillation on the smallest scale possible. A few of the first recipes such as the Absinthe and the Genever made from malta goya appeared on the blog before I stopped posting recipes for the sake of the book. The recipes have evolved over the years and the additional recipes from the book are wildly fun. I’m trying to have a friend look at the book before I send it to the publisher. I’m hoping it can become a classic and pulled together huge amounts of information about distillation that have never been seen under one roof.

10. Home made orange liqueur. A project to make a terroir driven orange liqueur for the bar years ago got really out of hand and wow did I learn a lot of things. Things started back here with Newman’s own Creole Shrubb but gradually got more sophisticated. There were various deconstructions of Cointreau and eventually I even re-created Joseph Konig’s curacao from 1879. These ideas are really useful to new distilleries and to bars. The recipes work astoundingly well and can be a solution to numerous problems.

11. Instant aging, Fernet 151, and DIY Barrel Proof Overholt. I almost forgot this technique. They were wildly fun. 69 Colbrook in London linked to the instant aging with vacuum reduction technique though I’m not sure if anyone actually used it. Later on I discovered you can use an Excalibur food dehydrator instead of a costly vacuum reduction setup. Everything is elaborated further in my distillation book so things got neglected on the blog. I saw tons of incoming links from egullet where the technique was discussed but no testimonial of people trying it. One of the favorite uses was on Kuchan’s peach brandy. Un-aged it tastes like bubble gum and is gross. Fake age it with some bourbon and it is move you to tears beautiful.

12. Advanced Nut Milk Basics. This was a cool one and I know there are quite a few centrifuges out there in operation, but I don’t think anyone else but Dave Arnold’s crew is taking nut milks too seriously. Over on egullet I posted a string of cocktails featuring nut milks, orgeats, and decadent nut milk heavy creams (concentrate the fat!)

Thanks for checking things out! don’t worry there is more to come.

The Manhattan: Prior Convictions and Ulterior Motives

“The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the former, and yet it is the former that moves one of the most useful men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigator. What actually urges him on is not some brummagem idea of Service, but a boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but a dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes.” -H.L. Mencken

“The rush to expertness compromises all interrelationships” -Marshal Mcluhan

I hear people quite often making proclamations of what constitutes the “best” Manhattan. We all know my feeling about the word best. These people seem to only accept one version as true and ideal. If we thought about, and maybe outlined, all the possible motives that exist for our attraction to a Manhattan maybe we could accept many types.

One of the most noble motives that guides Manhattan construction is flattening a sensory path to perceiving the aroma. Experiencing the extraordinary in aroma is very important to cementing and retrieving memories. In the multisensory perception of flavor, olfaction is the hardest sense to perceive and the other senses typically end up being attentional distractions that often pull us away from olfaction (there is salt the aroma enhancer and then at some point there becomes salt the aroma distractor. Chef’s usually bark things to their line cooks like “too salty!”, but what if they elaborated and said something more articulate like “you went from enhancing the aroma to distracting from it”. Would the young line cook learn faster how to properly salt?). When we stir a Manhattan as opposed to shaking it and dissolving gas we limit texture distraction. When we compound a Manhattan in a certain ratio of whiskey to sweet vermouth we simplify gustation so as not to distract from aroma. Believe it or not we require a certain amount of sweetness to fix gustation at its most innocuous point in relation to perceiving aroma. Too much sweetness and we reach a blinding zone called cloying. Too little sweetness and aroma is suppressed. This lesson was first mastered by port wine producers who created the 18×6 template. For port, 18% alcohol puts the wine at the minimum of preservation so as not to be a distraction. Drinkers of dry wines complain that even alcohol contents as high as 15% can be distractions from aroma when there is not residual sugar. A brix of 6 is just over 60 g/L and is enough to hide the extra percentage points of alcohol while simultaneously flattering aroma. Sweet vermouth typically has a sugar content near 165 g/L so when diluted 2:1 they approach the wisely chosen sugar content of port. Alcohol in a Manhattan is certainly not innocuous but rather is part of the drink’s charm.

We are not solely in love with aroma. Many of us demonstrate a love of other attentional features like alcohol and acidity. Many imbibers scoff at the 2:1 aroma emphasizing formula. And what do we make of those people that happily drink shaken martinis with “tired” vermouth? Are their motives any less noble? What are their motives anyhow? Drinkers that enjoy ratios such as 3:1, 4:1, or the infamous perfect Manhattan are not afraid to compromise aroma by making the other features more salient. These imbibers find repose in exotic styles of dryness. The brash attentional nature of these Manhattans are thought to dispel anxiety and with that said we might have just found their motive. If the Manhattan simply becomes a vehicle for attentional therapy there quite a few ways to skin the cat.

If our motive is to thwart complacency it might make sense to have a formula forced upon on us through random old school free pouring where we will just learn to love it. Many people enjoy this randomness, but we are quick to chalk it up to a lack of understanding their options. Free pouring and random recipes are cocktail movement blasphemy but they may not have been without positive effects.

Adding Angostura bitters echos and alliterates facets of the whiskey turning the sum into a super stimuli. The extraordinary expression of aroma that is Angostura bitters can push ordinary whiskey and ordinary vermouth into the extraordinary. One of the most salient features of Angostura bitters is their massive amount of tannin which stimulates the haptic sense which operates via the Trigeminal nerve. Adding certain levels of haptic data to a flavor experience is known to change contrast detection, amplifying aroma. Olfaction often has to be turned on and our ability to do that becomes less easy as we age. Besides their aroma, the tannins of angostura bitters may help us smell more of our Manhattan.

The Manhattan differs from its counterpart the old fashioned. The old fashioned is a clean cut super stimulus like the Venus of Willendorf or basically whiskey with a set of outrageous breast implants. Whiskey, especially bourbon, features a distribution of aromas that both increases the perception of sweetness and decreases it. Tension exists between the aromas and we are attracted to the relationship. When we add an orange peel we exaggerate the olfactory-sweet aroma in the whiskey and when we add Angostura bitters we exaggerate the olfactory-dry aromas. Whiskey also has tannins that stimulate the haptic sense and Angostura bitters adds to those. The sugar that is added makes the aroma all the more apparent. The tension that exists within the whiskey is widened making it feel similar but become more attentional (The same series of relationships exists when we add dry vermouth to gin and make a martini. The juniper aroma converges with gustatory-acidity and the most salient feature of dry vermouth is its acidity hence the martini being the super stimulus version of gin). A Manhattan could probably also be seen a super stimulus but probably one that is less clean cut.

Many people that claim to strongly dislike sweet drinks can enjoy a Manhattan because the aroma is typically redeemingly extraordinary which leads to a great rule of thumb. Among people with well entrenched acquired tastes, when we flatten a path to olfaction by holding all the the other senses at their most innocuous (a sweet drink) the aroma presented must be extraordinary or the experience will be seen has unharmonic.

When we can better articulate our motives we can better achieve our goals. We can also squash elitism, annoying false claims of authority, and pretensions. When we understand what cocktails actually do to us such as with anxiety and complacency thin claims of spirit superiority start to fall apart. Drinking also becomes cheaper because we start to allocate our money better. When we understand the ins-and-outs and order of operations of the multi sensory perception of flavor, unsubstantiated elitist bartenders are separated from matter-of-fact sensory scientists. When we actually recognize acquired tastes and their value we will treasure them when we find them in others. When we learn their patterns we will have no myopia to their various shapes. When we unravel the mechanism by which we learn to like challenging experiences, we will all be more sustainable.

Unfortunately it is never simple. So much of how art comes to be and what it does to us is accidental. Because they are an acquired taste, so many people started drinking Manhattans with something to prove. This powerful but not so noble motivator helped them acquire the taste rapidly. In the end the end these drinkers discovered an avenue of attentional therapy. All’s well that ends well. Happy drinking.

Advanced Aroma Theory Basics

[This post is an excerpt from a yet to be completed text on avant garde beverage distillation.]


Nature is a temple where living pillars

Let escape sometimes confused words;
Man traverses it through forests of symbols
That observe him with familiar glances.

Methods of evaluating and classifying aromas are invaluable to the distiller. Many distillers work in teams to sculpt aroma during the product development stage or to maintain consistency across batches once production has begun. Articulate communication is paramount to achieving either objective but unfortunately not many guides exist in the literature. Some scientists, notably Gordon Shephard the author of Neurogastronomy, have made great strides in understanding aroma perception but for the most part it is still beyond the reach of science and needs to first be teased out by the suspicions and empathy of artists. Many of the ideas here have been shaped & formed through countless conversations with the great brewers, bartenders , distillers, and wine makers of the world.

Identifying and quantifying aroma constituents in terms of molecules using advanced technology such as chromatography is a seductive idea, but it is impractical to all but the largest scale producers who typically only use the data to troubleshoot off-aromas and maintain consistency as production scales up rather than explore the patterns of pleasure. The literature on spirits analysis often states that efforts to reveal every chemical constituent of a beverage has produced little in the way of our understanding of aroma perception. The amazing power of the human nose leaves little incentive to apply high-tech analytic tools to the creative process. With practice and a framework of language as guidance, great empathy for evaluating aroma can be developed. Rendering a sensory experience in language, which essentially requires a transfer between frames of mind, may improve and refine the schemas we use for contrast detection when parsing aromas. This all means that talking about aroma will make your nose work better, faster.

Chemical analysis has limitations for categorizing aromas that are not well articulated in the literature. A fairly new idea that is only slowly gaining traction is that aroma perception is subject to significant amounts of illusion generated by its unique ties to memory. Chemical analysis, so far, makes no recognition of illusion or connection to co-experience and recollection.

Representing a sensation like an aroma with words can be a daunting challenge and many of the great distillers and spirit blenders of the world are not good at it. Many of these professionals feel (think non-linguistically) but cannot say, which unfortunately limits their ability to teach and solve certain types of problems.

One of the great problems with evaluating and categorizing aroma arises from our difficulty in separating the symbolic world from the sensory world. Though they often seem glued together, each has its own harmony and disharmony. Each also has the ability to influence the harmony of the other which is part of the mechanism by which we acquire acquired tastes. Prudish drinkers have been known to enjoy challenging sensory acquired tastes under the powerful symbolic influence of nationalism. Cultural rifts have also been narrowed by recognition of shared sensory values.

The aroma of Bourbon whiskey can be described as traditional, American, and grandfatherly which are all symbolic descriptors, but Bourbon can also be described as oaky, sweet, and round which all attempt responsibility for addressing Bourbon’s sensory side. The vocabulary of the highly subjective symbolic side is laden with rhetoric and therefore important to the marketer, while the vocabulary of the sensory side strives for objectivity and close representation of the sensory experience making it central to the concerns of the distiller. Beauty is the composite of both symbolic and sensory values, but to fully express it and put beauty to work, we need to understand the dividing line.

It could be argued that symbolic bias is shown in the word choices of the average person when trying to describe an aroma. More time is spent wielding rhetoric to sell aromas than objectively represent them. We are more comfortable labeling an aroma (or aroma set) as masculine or feminine than we are at describing the shape of the sensory tensions that exist within it. The ease by which symbolism is found in aromas somewhat obscures the raw sensory experience. Aromas mark and retrieve memories and therefore inspire us to be poetic in our word choices despite how subjective and personal the language. We forget our word choices are often based on inside jokes.

The idea of an aroma fault in a spirit is also symbolic. Aromas categorized as faults in spirits are only done so because besides typically being ordinary as opposed to extraordinary, they represent regrets, missed opportunities, and what could have been. Sometimes though, one imbibers’s fault is another’s feature especially if that latter drinker doesn’t know what could have been.

No word(s) can ever be an exact or universal stand-in for an experience, but some can be closer than others. It is useful to explore the origins of commonly used attempts at objectivity so we can expand upon them. When Bourbon is compared to oak, it is an actual object comparison. Object comparisons are very common but lack a lot of precision and assume familiarity with the compared experience. Unfortunately, few have ever had oak in singular form and the single word does not address all possible oak expressions (honey from oak trees is a great way to become familiar with the oak aroma).

Sometimes strings of object comparisons are used such as “oak, vanilla” or “raspberry, cherry”, but the comma is often the wrong logical operator to relate the descriptors. The experience may feel more like the unknown space between the two known values and a symbol that implies between-ness might be more appropriate. The comma as a logical operator has been known to throw many people off and can even make them question their ability to parse the experience. Strings of obscure object comparisons separated by commas can even be used as a means of cementing authority and professional critics are often accused of employing such tactics.

The supreme elaboration of the object comparison is the aroma wheel, which was developed to create standardized terms for wine tasting. The wheel begins in the center with generalized grouped comparisons such as “herbaceous / vegetative” and expands outwards into more specific sub-divisions like “dried” before ending at definitive comparison such as “hay” or “tea”. The aroma wheel is a useful teaching tool for tasters, and its creators share the opinion with the author that turning a sensory experience into language can help build the schemas we use to parse experiences and detect contrast, thus increasing enjoyment. The wheel unfortunately has the limitations of object comparison and is not tremendously useful in identifying patterns of attentional tension that can be beneficial to the creative process of building aromas.

The language we select to represent an aroma is constantly challenged by our attraction to grotesque (think of a mermaid) between-ness. The unknown tonal values between the aromas of raspberry and cherry are more prized than either known value alone. Between values are more attentional and draw us back to examining them, making them more memorable themselves as well as more likely to reinforce retention of paired experiences. They are a super normal stimulus. We crave the unique and extraordinary rather than the ordinary, obvious, or plebian. We put to use the extraordinary in aroma, such as a fine wine for a special dinner, as a tool that preserves the memories of the rest of the evening.

Like long echoes that intermingle from afar
In a dark and profound unity,
Vast like the night and like the light,
The perfumes, the colors and the sounds respond.

Beyond object comparisons, aromas can also be described in terms of the other senses. Cross-modal (a mode being one of the senses) comparisons, also called grounded metaphors, may seem unnecessarily more complicated than object comparison, but they do come to us naturally as proven by Lakoff & Johnson and when elaborated can take an understanding of aroma to the next level as one works with the sought after extraordinary and un-namable.

Describing the experience of one sense in terms of another may seem far-fetched, but when examining language applied to the other senses, the technique is very common. Vision is often described in terms of thermoception with warm and cool color analogies. Sound has been described in terms of color using the chromatic scale (*Piesse has a lovely chart). These analogies imply sensory linkages and evidence of them has been found in synesthetes.

Synesthesia is a condition where involuntarily stimulating one sensory modality produces an impression in another as well. However rare the condition, there is an astounding variety of types of synesthesia with reported cases of nearly every type of sensory linkage from seeing sounds (sensory-sensory) to smelling words (sensory-symbol). Synesthetes with sensory-symbol linkage may expose a neurological basis for our difficulties separating the symbolic and sensory worlds. Synesthesia implies that not everybody has the sensory linkage exhibited, but some researchers are starting to believe that olfactory-gustatory synesthesia is a learned type common to everybody. Aroma therefore can very effectively be described in terms of gustation and is seen by the author as the most useful method of categorizing aroma.

There are perfumes fresh like the skin of infants
Sweet like oboes, green like prairies,
—And others corrupted, rich and triumphant

When a Bourbon, which contains no significant sugar, is described as sweet, a cross-modal comparison has been made between olfaction and a gustatory division. Olfactory-sweetness is easy to identify and many people describe wines fermented to dryness, but having fruity aromas, as being “sweet”. We have evolutionary incentives to learn how to anticipate nutrition sources. The ability to predict food sources using our noses helps one to expend less energy while seeking out nourishment. Olfaction has evolved to anticipate gustation which in turn is a reliable determiner of nutritional value.

We can be seen somewhat arbitrarily as having twenty-one years of olfaction consistently anticipating gustation. When we start consuming alcohol at twenty-one, we enter a highly abstracted world where that sweet-smelling and sweet-tasting grape juice has now been converted to dry wine which often still smells the same. Fermentation and distillation are methods by which olfaction can be made to diverge from gustation. Divergence, as anyone who has consumed alcohol knows, can be highly attentional, memorable, and if done right, pleasurable.

The commonly accepted analogy of sweet smells can be expanded. Just like gustatory-sweetness, olfaction can converge with any of the other gustatory divisions. After olfactory-sweetness, the olfactory-umami may be the easiest division to identify (umami is sometimes also called the fatty-acid taste). The other gustatory divisions are not as easy to separate by empathy and it is hard to say whether the aroma of juniper is olfactory-acid or olfactory bitter. Indeterminate non-sweet divisions can usefully be called olfactory-dryness.

In distillates, the olfactory-umami can easily be found in muscat-based brandies like Pisco, agave-based spirits like Tequila, and Rums, especially those made from fresh sugarcane juice. The term “funky” has often been applied to an umami quality in spirits as well as the older term “hogo” which was often used in descriptions of early rums. The olfactory-umami, like everything else, has a spectrum with the darker or heavier end often being described by the Spanish word “rancio” and commonly applied to red wines and sherry.

Umami is not a widely recognized gustatory division, but understanding the olfactory-umami may help explain the gustatory phenomenon. Fatty acids, besides being found in meat, are also found in non-animal sources such as grapes, sugar cane, and agave. The heat of atmospheric distillation provides an opportunity for esterification where fatty acids react with alcohols to produce distinct volatile aroma compounds. Fermentation produces similar aroma compounds as does other processes like Maillard reactions (which also happen during beverage distillation) and reactions related to enzyme activity. The organic chemistry unfortunately can get intricate very quickly and so can the neuroscience but basically we smell the aroma compounds and because prior experiences has already linked the volatile fatty acids and their even more volatile esters, olfaction alone produces the illusion of tasting the umami. This idea of smelling the umami is not widely recognized or even widely studied, but the idea that we evolve to expend as little energy as possible when searching for nutrition makes it probable. Sensory linkages can make us better adapted for survival.

The gustatory patterns of pleasure are widely known. We enjoy attentional tension such as the bitter-sweet, salty-sweet, umami-sweet and “sour” (acid-sweet). The same patterns exist once olfaction is categorized in terms of gustation. Olfactory-sweetness contrasted with olfactory-dryness forms the basis of most culinary aroma creative linkage patterns.

When Bourbon is described as round, olfaction is being compared to the haptic sense which is our sense of touch. Haptic aroma analogies go back at least as far as the ancient Greeks. According to the Greek philosopher Democritus, “Sweet” things are “round and large in their atoms,” while “the astringently sour is that which is large in its atoms but rough, angular and not spherical.” Saltiness is caused by “isosceles atoms” while bitterness is “spherical, smooth, scalene and small.” Bourbon is often described as round relative to the more angular rye whiskey. Empathy tells us Green Chartreuse is nearly all angles and therefore its aromas may be from the spectrum of olfactory-acid.

Neuroscientist Roberty Cytowic’s book on synesthesia, “The Man Who Tasted Shapes”, describes a synesthete with permanent haptic linkages to his flavor perception. He experiences food similar to Democritus’ analogy, but on non-voluntary terms. Quinine to Cytowic’s subject, “felt like polished wood because it was so smooth.” Angostura Bitters was “an organic sphere”, “with tendrils”, “the shape feels like a living thing, see, which is why I say ‘organic’. It’s round but irregular, like a ball of dough.”

We see the terms “flinty minerality” or “wet cobble stone” used all the time as descriptors for wine aroma and take for granted their origins. Many wine analogies may be cross-modal haptic references similar to Democritus early explanation of flavor or Cytowic’s synesthete. Stone has a texture and we find that texture an analogy for the aromas found within the wine. We know the sensation of “minerality” is the product of volatile aroma rather than non-volatile dissolved minerals because the “minerality” in question carries over into distillates.

The word “acrid” may be also rooted in a comparison to the haptic sense. Acrid is often used to describe the sharpest most angular aromas such as acetic acid, ammonia, or bleach. The word saw more common usage in the 18th and 19th centuries and was used to describe sharp but less extreme aromas like ginger, galangal, and cumin. The sensation of the word said aloud has a striking correspondence to the shape of aromas described as “acrid”. The phonetics of our word choices is not always arbitrary and even infants have been found to match nonsense sounds to shapes consistently with adults. Aromas referred to as acrid with the current usage of the word are most often always flaws and end up in the distillates of stressed and often oxidized fermentations.

The aroma of some distillates like those in the palm sugar based rum, Batavia Arrack, defy most attempts at object comparison. Their extraordinary foreignness cannot even clearly anticipate a gustatory sensation, but somehow a shape often comes to mind and the aroma feels like an elegant expression of what could be called “acrid”.

One of the most complete cross-modal systems of categorizing aroma comes from the mid 19th century French perfumer G. W. Septimus Piesse. Piesse compared olfaction to the auditory sense and in his seminal book The Art of Perfumery, he constructed elaborate charts that compare common perfume aromas to musical scales. The resultant order of the charts is startlingly intuitive and Piesse found that constructing aroma sets guided by the rules of common acoustic harmony also resulted in olfactory harmony. The acoustic metaphor “bass note” still lingers in common usage to describe aromas like vanilla or heliotrope and more than likely has its origins in Piesse’s odophone. Literary symbolists, surrealists, and futurists were later influenced by the analogies of the odophone and applications of the idea can be seen in the mouth-organ played by the main character Jean Des Esseintes of Joris-Karl Huysmans’ novel Against Nature or similarly of the scent-organ featured in the dystopian future of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

The mind is known to create enduring sensory after-images in every sensory modality, but notably olfaction which perfumers often refer to as sillage (an after-image is a sensation that endures after the stimulus has been removed). Piesse was so bold and thorough in exploring his ideas as to hypothesize that with these after images, the mind could neutralize “pestilential” or “ammoniacal” aromas with “acidic” aromas. The result would seem like the real chemical reaction of ammonia and acetic acid where their acrid aromas disappear but be constructed solely by the mind. Aromas such as that of juniper, cedar, the herbs of Provence, etc. are known to have antiseptic, purifying and hygienic olfactory symbolism, but also they seem to converge with the olfactory-acid. Each of these purifying aromas are also deeply rooted in aromatizing meat and fish which as they mature and spoil produce “pestilential” aromas. The interaction of sensory after images in the mind may also be the basis for reactive wine and food pairings. [Later with the help of Neurogastronomy I learned about contrast enhancement in space and time for wine and food interaction.] More than one hundred and fifty years after Piesse’s ideas were first published, little is still known about the subject.

The language of color is also useful in categorizing aromas. Green and Yellow as prefixes for the Chartreuses are chosen to converge with the respective spectrums of aromas contained within. Wines have been known to have their colors abstracted naturally and unnaturally to better converge with their aromas. Barrel-aged spirits are often colored with caramel to have closer tonal sympathies with their aromas because the barrel, if second fill, does not always contribute as much color as one would think. Other distillates embrace the divergence of aroma from their crystal clarity. Blue Curaçao is an example of deliberate divergence of color for the sake of expressing emotion via defiance of expectation and anticipation.

To represent aromas with language, it might be helpful to think of aroma sets (which quickly spill into the flavor concept). Gin is an aroma set derived from the distillation of numerous ingredients. Bourbon can also be seen as an aroma set and we can use multiple words to express its numerous components. The idea of a set is a useful framework to help explain the attentional tension between aromas and help reveal the prized patterns of pleasure.

Aroma sets can feel like they have intervals and overtones of aroma. Overtones are essentially intervals that are so close together that we cannot easily parse them. The combined aroma of orange and apricot produces an overtone that is impossible to separate, but too often we deny that realization because we know the inputs and misuse the comma as a logical operator. Orange and anise (or just about anything and anise) will produce a distinct interval. Intervals of aroma create a sensation of depth in the olfactory experience which can be a great source of pleasure. If orange, apricot, and anise, which can all be categorized as olfactory-sweet, are rendered in an imaginary spatial scale, both orange and apricot would appear close together while anise would appear distant.

Olfactory-sweetness is the easiest to manipulate in terms of creating overtones, but the same can be done for every olfactory-gustatory division. Many of the common gin botanicals such as angelica are selected to tonally modify juniper, producing an overtone that strives to be extraordinary.

Many pleasurable aroma pairings rely on creating attentional tension between different olfactory divisions. We often contrast the olfactory-sweet with the olfactory-bitter such as with the aromas of melon & smoke or blackberry & smoke. Both of these combinations will be felt to have the same shape to their tension but will seem to have different distances from each other influencing our ability to find them harmonic. The aroma set of melon & smoke is a more distant interval than blackberry and smoke. Smoke may seem a challenging harmony for melon (in the absence of another salient attentional attribute like texture) because of their distance, but other aromas sometimes are not especially harmonic with blackberry because they become overshadowed. Blackberry can be seen as relatively more dense than melon. Vanilla is typically the most dense aroma and has a large propensity to overshadow other members of an aroma set.

It is important to remember that there is no such thing as dissonance (dis-harmony). Aromas cannot not go together. It is not fair to say that one does not like something so much as one does not like something yet and tonight might not be the night to start. The idea of infinite possible harmonies was first championed in music. The avante-garde composer Arnold Schoenberg famously expressed the idea as there is “no such thing as dissonance, but rather a further removed consonance that has yet to be absorbed.” A look at musical history reveals that society has metabolized a massive amount of acoustic dissonance since the beginning of the 20th century. Adages such as “what grows together, goes together” may use the positive symbolic value of being from the same area to influence the perception of the sensory harmony in question. Flavor perception as a sensory system seems comparably atrophied and our harmonic values vary markedly person to person. Acquired tastes are immensely important to the spirits industry and yet are little understood or acknowledged.

One of the great tests for aroma vocabulary (or integrated as flavor vocabulary) is trying to describe vermouth. Most explanations of vermouth describe the origins and process of production and then end with a “you’ll known it when you see it” clause about the sensory values. Vermouth lies somewhere between wine and spirit because they are made from wine bases as well as aromatized with botanicals and fortified with distillates. When the common use tasting jargon of the wine and spirit realms are challenged to scale, they mostly fail. In defense of the jargon, many criticize vermouth for being too complex. Vermouth may have more moving parts than any other product in all of the culinary world.

If cross-modal metaphors are employed, the aroma set within vermouth can be described as an overtone of olfactory-sweetness evenly competing for attention with intervals of olfactory-dryness. The round, olfactory-sweet side features an extraordinary overtone lying in the space between the brighter muscat and the darker orange as well as a subtle interval of anise. A translucence that does not overshadow characterizes the tonality of the olfactory-sweet side. The olfactory-dry side is felt to have the shape of a terrace and in dry vermouth lies in-and-around the herbs de Provence while in sweet vermouth in-and-around cinnamon and the other mildly acrid darker spices. The gustatory-sweetness of sweet vermouth lies at a point that when diluted 2:1, spirit to vermouth, gustation seems relatively innocuous and an attentional path is flattened to perceiving aroma. The very low gustatory-sweetness of dry vermouth is such that the product can have comparable gustatory tension to dry, white table wine when constructed from a wine base (eventually fortified) that accepts low alcohol and high acid as a compromise for stable, fruity, olfactory-sweet aromas (“stable” implies aroma compounds that don’t break down and age so quickly). All vermouth is fortified with alcohol to the minimum of stability to impose as little sensory distraction from aroma as possible.

Expanded cross-modal metaphors for describing aromas may seem silly. The hyphenated descriptors may sound cumbersome and not fit for standard conversation, but there is room for more than the standard conversation. Specialized descriptors are useful for the back rooms where spirit professionals are working to sculpt aroma, not sell it. Applying language to an experience helps build the schemas we use to parse and detect contrast. Not everyone is born into a family of distillers. Those new to the art need to develop their skills quickly. The emphasis in wine culture on turning wine into words benefits the growing skills of the taster. The same can be true for the aspiring distiller.

Understanding the dividing line between the symbolism of an experience, or essentially what it stands in for, and the sensory experience is immensely valuable. At some point in time distillers need to explore how something smells and tastes blindly, in the raw. Ingenuity in the aroma field requires aesthetic detachment. Detachment (from symbolism) can bring about sustainability by helping us make use of the new, the forgotten, or the byproduct. Often these aroma sources are symbolically bankrupt. Once made harmonic on sensory level, positive symbolic value can be re-attached and the entire experience made whole again. Reflect on any spirit you love, and its beauty you will see, is the composite of both its real-sensory and purely abstract-symbolic values.

That have the expanse of infinite things,

Like ambergris, musk, balsam and incense,
Which sing the ecstasies of the mind and senses.

-Charles Baudelaire

Developing the Vermouth Formula

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Developing the Vermouth Formula

By Otto F. Jacoby of the Berkeley Yeast Laboratory

April 1948

The first requirement in establishing a vermouth formula obviously must be to know what type of product is ultimately desired. It is not impossible to produce a domestic vermouth which comes very close to the foreign product. But to duplicate the foreign vermouth exactly is highly improbably because the herbs and other flavoring bases are not the same here as in other countries; nor do the imported herbs and flowers, some of which should be fresh when used, retain their desired characteristics after shipment and often too long storage. Our domestic herbs, bearing botanically the same basic name as foreign varieties, are useful, but of very different character just as certain types of grapes grown in Europe differ in character when transplanted in our soil and climate.

It is unfortunate that in America the problem of a quality product is so greatly over-simplified through the decision that the desired product is to be as close an imitation as possible of some foreign product. It would be much more to the point to have the objective of producing a strictly American or California Type Vermouth, and preferably one that reaches its zenith of taste when mixed with a well-prepared California Brandy. We usually have our cocktails prepared with Gin and French (Dry) Vermouth or with Bourbon and Italian (Sweet) Vermouth, but a cocktail with American or California type Vermouth mixed with our native Brandy has not yet been prepared because the true California Vermouth does not exist.

It is a fallacy to think that good herbs can come only from Europe or other foreign countries. Our own mountains, deserts, and seashores provide a wealth of native flavoring ingredients with their own specific characteristics. The point to bear in mind is that the use of these herbs should bring out a fine distinctive flavor which would be recognized proudly as our native vermouth.

As far as laboratory exercises are concerned, the first step is to build up the herb library. Just as another library consists of an assortment of books, the herb library consists of a complete assortment of herbs, flowers, roots, fruits, barks, etc. One step farther along the line, it consists of an assortment of extracts of herbs, each ready for use in experimental compounding. The extracts are far superior to the herbs themselves for experimental mixtures and preliminary formulations. They are more easily handled, measured and standardized; they also permit minor adjustments in an experimental mixture.

Our present herb library at the Berkeley Yeast Laboratory consists of 225 bottles, each the extract of a different herb or flavoring material. We are adding to it regularly, as it is still far from complete.

Preparing the extracts is simple, but still requires some care. In an extraction with water, certain characteristic of the herb are extracted, in some more the desirables, in others more the undesirables. The same is true of extractions in alcoholic solutions of different strength. I have found that extraction with a fortified white or sweet wine of 20 per cent alcoholic content affords a good balance in this respect. It gives the most efficient extraction from the point of view of securing a desirable balance of extractives, and of securing the greatest concentration of desirable constituents. These extracts are held in the library in contact with the herbs. They are suitable for all practical purposes for approximately 18 months with no great danger of decomposition.

The selection of herbs is an art in itself. Various published formularies will list generally about 50 or so of the widely known herbs and seasonings. The actual selection of flavorings should go further than that, however. Every non-poisonous plant with a pronounced taste or odor could be potentially an ingredient for any beverage. The concentration required may amount to only a few drops in a gallon, but these few drops may be just the amount needed to balance the formula and bring it to completeness in satisfying the palate, and in accenting or diminishing the effect of the other constituents.

Balancing the Formula

After the herb library has been developed, and a reasonable approximation to the formula has been reached, the important step of balancing the formula must be considered. This is a slow but interesting task. To achieve the final balance of taste requires a very sensitive palate, and also requires more than one palate. The practical value of a vermouth or other compounded wines depends entirely upon consumer acceptance, and tastes vary widely among different individuals.

The compounder has the initial responsibility of reaching the general overall taste that is required for the vermouth or compounded product under consideration. After that he must check the reactions of his own palate with those of as many other collaborators as possible. The reaction of each taster should be noted.

Different herbs and different essences excite different taste buds within the mouth. If one cares to taste any vermouth slowly, deliberately and critically, he will be able to note the actual geographic location of the taste buds within his own mouth which are stimulated.

The final vermouth must have a round taste on the palate, and at the same time retain the essential basic characteristics of the product that is desired. Bringing the formula to masterly perfection may take months or years of continued checking and experimentation in this way.

Speaking more grossly, the formula must also be balanced as regards acidity, tannin, sugar and other, constituents which can actually be measured chemically. As compared with the balancing of taste, this is a very simple matter.

Analyzing the Herbs

The essential constituents of the herbs are their peculiar components which contribute to the taste and odor. These are present only in minute amounts, and as yet are not subject to chemical analysis. Inasmuch as the concentration of these constituents may vary from one lot of herbs to another, a quality comparison would be the proper procedure.

There are more detailed ways of doing this, but for the practical purposes of a cellarman the simple method of comparison of dilutions between the standard herb tincture of the library and the freshly prepared one from the newly received herb of the same species is sufficient to warn him in case of contrast in strength and to give him a chance to adjust the correct measurement in his formula before manufacturing.

In case of weaker appearances in new herbs, some cellarmen prefer to apply the original quantities as given in the formula and complete the correction in flavor when the vermouth has fully extracted the applied ingredients. In any case, the preparatory quality check would be something like this:

We have one established standard herb essence, No. 1, in our library and have just prepared another test essence of the new herb with the same ingredients as No. 1, called No. 2. In order to compare No. 1 with No. 2, four 500 cc graduates are used. Graduate A receives from 1 to 5 cc of the standard herb essence, No. 1, the amount depending entirely on the strength of the concentration and the potency of the type of flavoring material. Graduate B receives the same amount as graduate A, but the essence is taken from the test essence No. 2. Graduate C and D will receive essence No. 2, but one slightly less (20 per cent) and the other slightly more (20 per cent) than graduate B.

Now all four graduates are filled with distilled water up to the end-mark, are thoroughly agitated, and are ready for the organoleptic test.

We soon find out whether graduate B, C or D will come nearest to graduate A in taste and odor. We could taste the samples best in snifters and should number each graduate in order to avoid confusion. By finding out where there is the closest similarity of B, C and D to A, we can determine whether to add more or less of this tested herb to balance the formula.

Manufacturing Methods

After the formula has finally been established through this prolonged series of tasting, the final test is made in the commercial production of the new vermouth. The wine base for the vermouth is preferably a relatively neutral white wine such as Riesling or Sauterne type which is fortified to 20 per cent alcohol content.

Whether or not any sugar is to be added to the wine depends entirely on the type of vermouth that is to be produced. If as in Italian vermouth the product is to be dark in color, it often pays to sweeten it with a grape concentrate that has been heated in an open pan and concentrated still further, to a soft ball (235-240 F).

The syrup mostly caramelizes during this process and contributes the dark color; at the same time the taste that it imparts is considerably smoother and blends in better than when caramel color is added. If coloring should be removed, as sometimes is necessary in French Vermouth, carbon should never be used in the finished product, as it also removes some of the flavoring constituents, ruining the carefully established blend.

In adding tannin to vermouth, it is recommendable to use grapeseed tannin, because it keeps the product “within the cycle of its own nature.” If a few grapeseeds (not stems) were crushed with the grapes before fermentation and incorporated in the wine through its entire life, it would probably produce an even finer blend in the final vermouth, as well as helping in the fining of the product. Including a small amount of phosphoric acid with the citric that is added seems also to give a “shock” which causes the acids to blend in more smoothly with the bitter components of the vermouth.

In the extraction process the flavoring materials are placed inside cotton bags which are suspended in the wine. This keeps particles of the herbs from being retained by the wine and the extraction from being carried on longer than desired. The convection currents in the wine tank, together with mechanical agitation, serve to distribute the extractives uniformly through the wine. The extracting tank should be equipped with a cloth-covered false bottom, again to hold back any herb particles that may have escaped from burst cotton bags, when the wine was withdrawn.

After the extraction, the wine is balanced through the addition of tannin, sugar, acids, or other required materials. Then it should be allowed to rest for one week and then filtered. Pectinous resistance in the first filtration process would be easily overcome by treating the young vermouth beforehand with pectin-breaking-down-enzymes.

Following this filtration, the wine should stand for at least three months, during which time the several congenerics can blend completely. A cloudiness may develop during this time through purely natural causes in this blending process, and the cloud could of course be removed through fining and proper filtration methods.

Certain phases of the development of the formula and the production of vermouth are purely mechanical, but the production of quality products is still essentially an art, the same as production of quality liqueurs.

It will remain an art rather than a science until each separate constituent can be analyzed objectively, and until the inferential effect of each material added to a blend is subject to analysis. Until this day comes, the analysis of the various components and the effect of various additives must still be made by a carefully developed palate and an instinct that is partly inborn and brought out only after a long practice and experience in flavors.

A compounded wine also can be manufactured for tax purposes through the addition of commercial vermouth extracts or essences to any wine base. By using these the flexibility of a character product one desires diminishes and makes the addition of herbs lacking in the essence always necessary.

A quality vermouth product is produced only by the cellarman who lives with the product and whose life and professional pride is tied with it. There is much creative character and proud workmanship left in us so that we could imitate successfully the honored cellar guild of past centuries and their masters in our comparatively young industry. “The quality of one’s products should be the integrity and honor of the maker.”

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The Importance of Vermouth

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The Importance of Vermouth (1941)

by B.B. Turner

General Manager, Roma Wine Co.

Vermouth today is the fastest growing item in the United States wine trade. It is also the one item about which less is known than any other, and upon which there is a great demand for information. It is a mystery to the average dealer and consumer. And to the wine industry it is vastly important because it has a future market noncompetitive with, but potentially as important as our standard Clarets, Sauternes, Ports, Sherries, Tokays and Muscatels.

The United States has never, until very recently, been introduced properly to Vermouth. It has long been just one of the mysterious ingredients mixed into cocktails, like bitters, seldom or never tasted straight. Americans don’t know whether Vermouth is a wine, a cordial, a liqueur, or distilled spirit or a brew.

Yet the fact is that Americans like the flavor of this temperate beverage, once they taste it. They like it equally well, whether as a minor ingredient in a Martini or Manhattan, or straight, or as the major ingredient in such mixtures as Vermouth cocktails and highballs. The mixing of Martinis and Manhattans still consumes most of the average 1,600,000-gallon annual U.S. Vermouth sales volume. But coming into popularity are the chilled glass of Vermouth straight at luncheon or at appetizer time, and the dozen other beverages in which Vermouth predominates.

Every present indication is that Vermouth consumption in America may soon become larger than at any time in history. The strange phase of this event is that it has been brought about by cutting of the supply of nearly nine-tenths of all the Vermouth this country formerly consumed—the Vermouth of Europe.

By introducing U.S. Vermouths to Americans, and Americans to our own country’s Vermouths, we are discovering a new mutual attraction, that many soon ripen into enthusiastic acceptance. Many wine producers and distributors who never tried to sell Vermouth before are becoming interested. They see Vermouths of this country, principally California, as quickly occupying the former market, and are showing signs of developing a greater market than foreign Vermouths ever had here.

Why has California not produced much Vermouth before, when it supplied nearly 90 per cent of all the other wine used in America? The fact is that California has produced Vermouth for many years, but in limited quantities for discriminating tastes that recognized the special qualities of the California product. We have never produced it extensively because the market was not important enough. Furthermore, until very recently, United States tax laws discriminated against Vermouths produced in this country by imposing a triple tax on them, as against a single tax on the foreign product. One of the Federal taxes was eliminated in 1936, and another in 1940, thus equalizing the tax on foreign and U.S. Vermouths. Today our good California Vermouths not only equal the average foreign product, for are individual—and to most American tastes, preferable to anything from other countries.

Most people ask us, “What is Vermouth?” The simple answer is, Aromatized Wine. It is imply wine flavored with infusions of various aromatic herbs, roots, flowers, seeds.

What kinds of herbs, roots and seeds? Any number, is the answer. Usually 25 to 30 different kinds are used. Roma Wine Company has nearly 100 kinds in its various Vermouth formulae. They range through the alphabet from Angelica root to Yarrow, and in between come dozens of rare, rhapsodical items like Blessed thistle, Cinchona bark, Peach leaves, Cordiander, Elder flowers, Rosemary, Thume, Hyssop, Marjoram, Valerian.

What kinds of wine? Pure wines, carefully selected wine of neutral or delicate flavors, mellowness, balance, clarity and strength selected to blend perfectly with the aromatic herbs an individual winery uses. The formula is always the secret of the individual producer. Seldom indeed does more than one use the same. The exception to this rule is when synthetic Vermouths are made from alcohol instead of wine.

We are asked so many questions about Vermouth generally, and Roma Vermouths in particular, that we much conclude the public wants to know at least briefly how it is produced.

Of first importance, usually, is the wine. Only a few wines will make satisfactory Vermouth. The best Vermouths are made with wine for which the grape varieties have been carefully selected years before they ever come into contact with the herbs. The wines much be comparatively neutral …

(I don’t have all of this one because it was attached to another article which I had requested. There are other articles that chronicle vermouth production at the Roma Wine Co. and this article has its own entry in Amerine’s bibliography)

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