Rehabilitating Vermouth

I mentioned it as a one-off joke in an earlier article: “Oh, yes, there’s this little bar in Madrid just north of the Gran Via that specializes in Vermouth. They serve anchovies and olives as tapas – you really should go, dahling!”

But here’s the thing: I wasn’t kidding. That bar really exists. You should go there and drink sweet vermouth. But if you can’t go there, you should drink sweet vermouth anyway.

Vermouth, at least here in the States, is the black sheep of the bar. Everyone has had it at one point or another, typically in a Martini. Incidentally, can I say how irritated I am by the euphemism “very dry Martini”? If you’ve gotten to the point where you just want to drink a big glass of gin, then just order a big glass of gin and spare us the jargon (footnote 1). I would be willing to bet that 95% of the vermouth bought in the US is used solely in Martinis and Manhattans. And so, relegated by thuggish snobs to the ignoble role of “just a mixer,” I daresay that most people would never think of drinking it on its own. Which really is a shame, because it’s a wonderful drink.

For drinking straight up, I prefer the sweet variety. I usually drink it neat, but occasionally will cut it with a little soda water, which opens it up nicely and makes it a great aperitif. It has a spicy, sharp aroma, but the taste itself is quite round and woody. It’s closer to wine than to a spirit. Some people favor other wine-like or wine-based aperitifs (such as Lillet, which to me has never been anything other than vermouth tarted up in a frock), but for my money, it’s hard to beat a good vermouth.

And it goes great with green olives and anchovies. Mmmmmmmm.

Random link: because I love robots, I also love The Mixilator. It has yet to give me a cocktail that I can actually make – by sheer coincidence, I’m all out of loganberry juice, mandarin liqueur, pastis, and peach bitters, can you believe it? – but I still love the idea.

Footnote 1: Let me be perfectly clear: there’s nothing wrong with wanting to drink a big glass of gin. I just don’t want to have to listen to you try and be all cutesy about it.