Putting the “extra” back in extra dry vermouth

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Acidity is my favorite part of a drink. I, like so many people enjoy a dry wine. I, like so many people also enjoy a tart cocktail. The golden ratios are beautiful, such as one ounce of lemon juice to one ounce of Cointreau or the stunning in a mojito, one ounce of 1:1 simple syrup to one ounce of lime juice. Classically, there is barely anything to work with besides lemons and limes. Not enough people take dry vermouth seriously as an acid or very dry sparkling wines., dry sherries., etc. Well one thing I’ve always enjoyed is making some of my favorite slightly dry things drier (dry vermouth, orange juice) and then just plain inventing things (tart pineapple-irish moss syrup).

On the long list of things that needs a drier option is dry vermouth. It is good the way it is, but I also want the lemon strength option. Luckily this can be done in mere seconds.

A couple days ago I bought a bottle of Gallo dry vermouth which really turned out to suck (grapey bland swill). Well I thought it might be more adult if it were drier so I decided to add some acidity. There are lots of options and I could go into them, but I keep lots of malic acid (think apples) around and decided to go with it. Malic is more natural to most fruits and has never steered me wrong. The pH of the Gallo dry vermouth was 3.23 and lemons have a range of 2.1 (Harold McGee) – 2.3 (a random forgotten source)

My test volume was 250 mL and to get to a pH of 2.33 (where I stopped) I had to add 6 grams of malic acid powder. I don’t know why I stopped and I think I should have continued. It may have taken 8 grams to get to 2.1. The powder easily dissolved while stirring at room temperature.

The test cocktail was:

2 oz. batavia arrack van oosten (my favorite spirit)

1 oz. adulterated dry vermouth

1 oz. simple syrup (400 g/L)

shaken!

The cocktail is pretty cool. This is like a lemon sour but sort of different. Same tartness and sweetness but with a different flavor contrast for the spirit. The grapiness of the vermouth is a delicate foil for the expressiveness and pungent character of the arrack. Of course bitters would make it better.

I think I’m going to try this again with Noilly Prat or stock and take the pH all the way down to 2.1. Maybe I’ll even ceviche some shrimp savoy style while I’m at it.

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More Fun (or not) With Seville Orange Juice

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I still have a little bit of the Seville sour orange juice left so I thought I would sit down and try it in a drink. Having liked the Gilroy cocktail from the savoy cocktail book and having parodied it many times I thought that would be another good place to begin.

1 oz. gin (seagram’s cask aged distiller’s reserve)

1 oz. cherry heering

.5 oz. dry vermouth (M&R)

.5 oz. sour orange juice (the real stuff)

2 dashes peychauds bitters. (orange bitters seemed redundent)

This isn’t working for me and I think I need to add more acid. The Gilroy is already a low acid cocktail but using the lower acid orange juice over lemon juice puts it just over the tipping point of cloying. Adding another half ounce of the orange juice saves the drink and really seems to bring into balance some of the flavor contrasts.

For my second cocktail I thought I’d explore the elusive Amer Picon with the equally elusive sour orange juice.

2 oz. st. james ambre

1 oz. sour orange juice

.5 oz. amer picon (21 proof version)

scant half teaspoon of turbinado sugar

dash of peychaud’s bitters

I liked this drink a lot but probably not because of the special ingredients. More or less because St. James is good for the human condition and it is lately my favorite spirit. I get beautiful flavor contrast from the orange peel of the Picon and the orange juice of the acid versus the dirt and earth spicy character of the rum. The acid to sugar structure is perfect and the bitter elements are subliminal. You don’t exactly know if they are there but you’d miss them if they were gone. All in all I think the rum makes the drink. If you used something other than Amer Picon paired with an over the top cocktail bitter you’d get a stunning drink from the St. James sour orange combo.

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