Vermouth

This will grow into an index on things I did related to exploring, making, and understanding vermouth.

Back before the blog, all the things I had been doing were shared on egullet so that might be a good place to look if you want earlier ideas on vermouth.  My vermouth interest started after John Deragon got a great New York Times article on his work with Abbott’s bitters. I sort of declared bitters solved and thought it might be fun to apply my efforts to vermouth.

Hercules: a liqueur interpretation, replica, or rendering (5/2008): Lots of stuff came before this but this was the first for the blog. The word rendering came from my friend David Ferry who is a poet and translator of ancient texts. He doesn’t speak Babylonian and no one actually knows what it sounds like phonetically so David considers his translations to be renderings and I quite like the word for trying to do similar things with historical culinary projects. I had opened some bottles of this six years later and they tasted miraculously fresh and really great. I think the chosen botanicals make for great preservatives.

A Cheese and Vermouth Pairing (6/2008): A lot of people search for vermouth pairing in recent years and this is probably the first in modern culinary. Shortly after we did a James Beard Dinner where I actually got to present the first vermouths I made and probably the first for any modern culinary program. (The room was full of the food who’s who and everyone adored them but no one seemed to notice that it was a new concept) Anyhow, I wasn’t in charge of the pairings for the Beard dinner and one challenging dish was really miss paired. That dish went on the restaurant menu afterwards and I tried to correct the pairing. Turns out sweet vermouth was the right choice but back then my coworkers and chef were really insecure about serving it. Years later Matt Schrage served the best vermouth pairing I’ve ever had at one of his supper clubs. He used Vya sweet vermouth.

Putting the “extra” back in extra dry vermouth (6/2008): This was a silly project to increase the acidity of dry vermouth to that of a lemon to create more acid options for cocktails. I kept getting asked to cater big events for virtually free which nothing but donated product so I was hoping to make a sour mix alternative where I could create gallons of gorgeous acidity affordably.

Chamberyzette: An Elusive Eccentric Vermouth (6/2008): This post is kind of trash and I’ve gotten giant technique upgrades since. Strawberries are hard to work with and the juice gets rusty colored really fast. Most strawberry liqueurs are artificially colored with grape skin extracts. Eric Seed told me he didn’t want to import the Dolin Chamberyzette because it had artificial flavoring and was not in the league of their other products. If I made this again today, I would basket press strawberries, freeze concentrate the juice, fortify it and sugar it, then blend it with M&R bianco which was very new to us back then.

After Midnight Kind of Flavors (7/2008): Most of the drinks using vermouths I made were ending up on egullet but this one ended up on the blog. This drink might also be one of the first to feature a boutique honey. Back then not many people practiced this Wild Style form of making drinks probably other than the very exemplary bar, Death & Co. There was no Beta Cocktails yet. The Cerasuolo vermouth here was inspired by Sicilian wines that starting to be in vogue. I had even dreamed this up before tasting the Vergano Americano to which it had the strongest resemblance.

No Thanks, I’m Sweet Enough (7/2008): This is a short tour through vermouths on the market. I was slowly buying them all and spending time with them. I had just gotten some Carpano Antica but didn’t think it was that amazing.

Noilly Prat (7/2008): The summary of an eye opening tasting of Noilly Prat at the Tales of the Cocktails that would go on to influence my other creations.

An Extinct Style of Drink (8/2008) This post about using aromatized wines is pretty cool. It was the start of big efforts to make markets for aromatized wines and also to make lower alcohol drinks. All this stuff was a little precocious and way ahead of its time.

Deconstructing Sweet Vermouth (1/2009): This sloppy project was about finding the sugar content on sweet vermouth. Since then I’ve learn numerous new techniques that do not require distillation such as the usage of hydrometry, a known alcohol content, and two charts. In this project I also tried to find the dissolved volume of a measure of sugar in a really sloppy way. Currently I use the idea that if you know the density of a substance like sucrose we can divide the weight in grams by the density to find the volume once dissolved.  Understanding these sugar management skills can help you work really fast and really precise. For some reason none of these ideas are ever presented straight forward in any texts. I had to slowly arrive at them by connecting the dots.

Vermouth: An Annotated Bibliography (2/2009): At this point I had come across references to the Annotated Bibliography of Vermouth in UC Davis literature I was collecting but could not locate a copy. One day a guest, who was also a Harvard Archivist, promised to track down a copy and succeeded. Recently, it is available digitally for $1.68. I slowly tracked down as many references as I could and studying vermouth production, where I make it specifically or not, has had a massive impact on the rest of the things I produce. This post is a history of vermouth I pieced together and am still very proud of.

Gold Medal Sweet Vermouth (3/2009): Slowly I began inter library loaning old journal articles on vermouth and retyping them so they would be better indexed by google. Since then numerous people have read them and they even went on to influence a few commercial products.  For some reason a lot of people google “San Martin Vineyards” which is referenced in this paper. This paper isn’t exactly a tell all, but it does give suggestions for deepening involvement. I was also starting to look for language vermouth workers might use to communicate hard to describe flavor concepts with each other but really coming up dry.

Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients (5/2009): This book which is mostly about creating artificial flavors had a chapter on arranging flavors within amaros.  Fenaroli uses some interesting spatial concepts that I tried to apply to vermouths I was making and tried to elaborate in my many posts on language. I then started a giant series of drinks on egullet than wandered through different explorations of space with in a flavor experience and possible language to wrap around it. This went on for years, annoying some people while I noticed other people within egullet latching on to bits and pieces of it.

Vermouth… Some Practical Hints (9/2009): A pretty cool article form Wine & Vines. The big take away is that best extractions are at low proofs and many big vermouth houses might spread miss information based on their recommendations.

Revolution in Vermouth (9/2009): This is pretty cool article and acknowledges the very significant domestic production of vermouth that very few people are aware of today despite the resurgence in popularity.

Vermouth: Its Production & Future (9/2009): This is another great re-typed article that tells the tale of mid century domestic vermouth and gives some production hints. It unfortunately has some formatting issues I can’t seem to fix.

The Importance of Vermouth (9/2009): A lot of people search for the Roma Wine Co. whose manager authored the paper. Unfortunately the article is incomplete due to how it was archived.

Developing the Vermouth Formula (10/2009): A cool paper and the closing paragraph by Jacoby is awesome.

Martini Time! (4/2010): In this post I describe the relationships between gin & vermouth in a martini and explore the idea that gin formulas changed over time to force vermouth out of the drink and therefore steal vermouth’s market share which is worth an astounding amount of money. I don’t think anyone took this idea too seriously but if you look at other articles on vermouth it is acknowledged that they made dry vermouths paler so bartenders could unscrupulously put more of the cheaper ingredient in a drink with less chance of a patron catching on.

Advanced Culinary Communication Basics (7/2010): This is an essay that I’m really proud of that is a product of not finding what I was looking for in the vermouth literature. I launches my obsession with language, articulation, categories, and acquired tastes. I still stand by most of it but I did expand upon a lot of the categories and refine a lot of things. I don’t think you can take a short road to producing vermouth with out a strong frame work of language to guide you.

Redistributing Consolidated Knowledge (9/2010): This an essay that I am really proud of. It touches upon vermouth but it also touches upon ideas I was working on in distillation and aroma theory. In the end I do more elaboration on categorizing aromas which is really useful to understanding vermouth, but I’ve since taken these categories much further. Most people have short attention spans but this one is worth stretching a little bit for.

Advanced Super Stimuli Basics (7/2011): I could keep listing posts but things get more into language and categories and further from vermouth specifically, but this post is important to guiding aroma selection.  Many aromatized wines are the super stimuli version of their base wine. The clearest example might be borolo chinato which should have blown up aromas that are inherent to borolos.  This idea doesn’t seem that obvious until you taste one whose aromas are all wrong. I remember tasting the Boroli borolo chinato and being like wtf? All there aromas were from the wrong categories. One of the first dry vermouths I made was an Amalfi dry based on the Fallanghina varietal. I fortified it with a pear eau-de-vie because pear is an inherent fruit characteristic of the Fallanghina. By adding more pear I was making the super version. For the other botanicals I selected herbs native to the Amalfi coast which many people think they also find in the wines.  All the choices led to a very clean cut super stimuli. Once you can see this underlying pattern, you can elaborate it and explore many areas that have been neglected.

Back to Class with Maynard Amerine (12/2013): This post has a great link to a newly digitized 50 minute lecture by Amerine on vermouth from the early 1970’s. Because I’ve already read his books he reveals nothing ground breaking. What he does mention that is unique is the idea that when you use a purchased vermouth concentrate, you want to source as many as possible to hedge against availability problems and changes to the formula which would be mostly beyond your control.  This isn’t applicable today because no one sells a concentrate, but it does make you think that the proliferation of vermouths mid century might have been from common usage of concentrate.

The Tribuno Papers (2/2014) This post tells the story of the very significant Tribuno Vermouth company through papers given to me by the executor of the Tribuno estate.

A Round Up of the Most Current Vermouth Literature (5/2014) All the most recent papers from India and a great one from Ivan Tonutti.

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In the end I stopped making aromatized wines for my bar programs because it took a lot of time, square footage and money.  My involvement kept deepening and to do things the way I wanted, I would basically need to become a full time vermouth producer. I did apply all the techniques I learned to my prep and nearly everything I do is influenced by the body of research.

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