Friday, 4 April 2014

Friday Cocktails: Vermouth Three Ways

Vermouth. Perhaps best known for its starring role in the Martini, the Rob Roy, the Negroni and the Manhattan. But have you ever tried a Sunshine Glory, a Vermouth Vixen or a Vergin Roseberry? Probably not, as I created them just this week... My methods were dubious (splash of this, splash of that) but the results were not bad at all (Vermouth Vixen was my favourite).

As it's used primarily as an aperitif, or as an ingredient in many cocktails, you may think - like I did - that vermouth is a spirit or liqueur. In fact, vermouth is a fortified wine, flavoured with various botanicals such as roots, bark, flowers, seeds, herbs, spices - though each producer keeps their recipe under wraps to preserve the vermouth secret.

Starting with a neutral wine base, typically from grapes including Clairette, Piquepoul and Trebbiano, a neutral grape spirit is added to fortify (increase) the alcohol of the wine. Vermouth is produced is varying styles: Secco (dry), Bianco (lightly sweetened) and Rosso ('Italian vermouth' - red coloured, mildly bitter).

This week, I was sent three of the Mancino vermouth range, which is named after its creator, renowned Italian bartender Giancarlo Mancino. He spent four years traversing the globe to finalise the botanicals in his blend - visiting Vietnam, India, Thailand, England and Italy - and it is his hometown of Pignola in southern Italy which inspired the bottle shape and label. There's a lot of love that's gone into these vermouths...

Though my mixology skills leave a lot to be desired, these three cocktails were super easy to make and the results were delicious! Vermouth may just be my new secret cocktail weapon.

Mancino Vermouth Secco (£19.95, The Whisky Exchange)

Infused with 19 botanicals, this is clear and pale with a hint of green. On the nose it reeks of Mediterranean herbs; sage, marjoram and oregano plus, there's lemongrass and a floral note. On the palate it's crisp and super dry, with a nutmeg kick on the tongue and a bitter citrus finish - lemon pith came to mind. Excellent for the humble Martini, or over ice for an aperitif.

Sunshine Glory
Shake it to make it a....

Sunshine Glory
To make 1 cocktail:

  • 1 part Mancino Vermouth Secco
  • 1 part triple sec (I used Cointreau)
  • 3 parts orange juice
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • zest of half a lemon
  • soda water to top
  • 3 or 4 ice cubes
  • slice of lemon to garnish

1.  Add vermouth, triple sec, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon zest and ice to a cocktail shaker.
2. Shake to combine and pour into a highball or tall glass.
3. Top with soda water and make pretty with a slice of lemon.

Mancino Vermouth Bianco Ambrato (£20.95, The Whisky Exchange)

Infused with 37 botanicals this is a little darker in colour than the secco and produced to be a sweeter style. On the nose it's summery and floral with chamomile and elderflower, plus there's sweet orange, ginger and pink grapefruit zest. For new vermouth drinkers this might be a little easier to take in with a little extra sweetness, and hint of cardamom spice and liquorice on the finish. Ideal for Vesper cocktails, summer spritzers or on the rocks with a wedge of orange.

Vermouth Vixen
Shake it to make it a...

Vermouth Vixen
To make 1 cocktail:

  • 1 part Mancino Vermouth Bianco Ambrato
  • 1 part amaretto (I used Disaronno)
  • 1 part dark rum (I used Sailor Jerry)
  • 3 or 4 ice cubes
  • Umbrella to decorate

1. Add vermouth, amaretto, rum and ice to a cocktail shaker.
2. Shake to combine and strain into a cocktail glass.
3. Decorate with a pretty cocktail umbrella.

 Mancino Vermouth Rosso Amaranto (£20.95, The Whisky Exchange)

Infused with 38 botanicals, the Rosso is the darkest in colour of the three - red with a glint of caramel. On the nose there is sweet vanilla and rhubarb, juniper, toasted wood, and Christmas spices of cloves, cinnamon and dried orange. On the palate it feels more intense than the Secco and the Bianco - it's balanced but with a bittersweet medicinal finish.

Shake it to make it a...
Vergin Roseberry

Vergin Roseberry
To make 1 cocktail:

  • 1 part Mancino Vermouth Rosso Amaranto
  • 1 part gin
  • 3 parts rose wine
  • handful fresh raspberries
  • soda water to top
  • 3 or 4 ice cubes
  • lemon zest for garnish

1. Crush raspberries and add to a cocktail shaker with vermouth, gin, rose wine and ice.
2. Shake to combine.
3. Place one raspberry in the bottom of a tall glass and strain cocktail mix in.
4. Top with soda water.
5. Decorate with a lemon zest knot.

Key point to take from this post? Don't be scared to experiment with something you know little about. You may be surprised, you may be disappointed, but by all means you'll be tipsy, and when is that a bad thing?!

Happy experimenting!

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