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Flowers, Chocolate and… Wormwood?

Flowers, Chocolate and… Wormwood?


February is that one month of the year when we are often reminded that we take things for granted.  You didn’t spend enough time outside last summer when it was sunny and 80 degrees, did you?  Your New Years’ resolutions that were set in stone are quickly crumbling away, aren’t they?  Did Valentine’s Day really have to come around to buy your loved one some flowers and candy?  The cold winter months need remind us that we all deserve a kick in the behind!  And that’s just the beginning.

Heightened awareness about what we drink and eat has become part of popular culture.  Whiskey from Michigan, Oysters from New Brunswick, Beef from Oklahoma, and Vermouth from…Brooklyn?  Classic associations aside, everything we consume now has what the French refer to as a “terroir” or “provenance”: meaning that the flavor of things we consume are all influenced by the place in which they are made: honey, spices and wine.  If we’re so concerned about where things come from, why are some of the “little” things overlooked?

Vermouth is one of those “little” things.  A guest in a bar almost always will specify a type of Gin for a Martini (it’s not a Martini if it’s made with Vodka) or Bourbon for a Manhattan but then will often turn away when a bottle of vermouth that has been open for weeks is added to a well-crafted spirit.  Vermouth is wine.  Read.  Repeat.  Vermouth is wine, often a neutral white wine that is steeped with a variety of botanicals, fortified and sweetened.  Similar to other wines, it will oxidize and should be stored in the refrigerator to prolong freshness but often gets treated like a cheap flavoring.  Things are changing though, and serious cocktail menus will always specify what type of vermouth is being used in a drink because the market dictates that we specify.  “What type of Vermouth do you serve?” should be as common of a question as “Where is your salmon from?”

 Aida Mollenkamp's Los Angeles for Food & Wine Magazine, November 2012

Most vermouth is from Europe, was popularized in northern Italy and southeastern France and must contain some type of wormwood.  We offer several types of vermouths in our portfolios from the iconic Carpano Antica, to the delicate wines of Dolin to the bitter and rhubarb-driven Cocchi of Torino.  Many Europeans drink these wines on the rocks or simply chilled, a tradition that has still not caught on in the US…but we’re hoping that changes!  Good vermouth is an eye-opening experience for many, and if you want to know whether your beef is grass-fed you better ask exactly how your Negroni is made.

Here’s to smarter drinking.

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