Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vermouth on the Loose; the Spirits Richard Godwin's Cocktail Adventures

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vermouth on the Loose; the Spirits Richard Godwin's Cocktail Adventures

Article excerpt

Byline: Richard Godwin's

THESE are heady times in the world of vermouth. Not since the 1880s have drinkers gone so mad for the stuff. In Barcelona, vermouth bars are very much where it's at. If it turns out that Justin Bieber was swigging from a bottle of Noilly Prat when he was arrested for drag racing in Miami, put it this way: I would not be surprised.

Okay, so Kanye West hasn't hymned the virtues of Extra Dry just yet but the emergence of not one but two new vermouth brands is a sign that this underappreciated ingredient is finally getting the loving it deserves. This week the Cafe Royal hosted the launch of La Quintinye Royal Vermouth, a new range of three vermouths (Rouge, Blanc and Extra Dry) named after Jean-Baptiste de la Quintinye, the botanist to King Louis XIV. They are made in Charentes, France, and come in gorgeous little bottles that I expect to see behind the smartest bars soon.

Another new player is Italian bartender Giancarlo Mancino, who has spent four years perfecting his range of vermouths (Rosso, Bianco and Secco). These are artisanal products, made in small batches from impeccably sourced ingredients and designed with the modern bartender in mind. So, as I was saying, it's like Vermouth City out there.

Not long ago vermouth had a slight image problem, partly, I suspect, due to the word "vermouth" itself -- which sounds like a nasty condition you get from tonguing rats. Oenophiles get far more excited about sherry. Spirit drinkers prefer something with higher ABV. Still, the cocktail would be nothing without vermouth. It was vermouth creations such as the Martinez and the Marguerite that provided the gateway to the cocktail's golden era, since vermouth provides a subtler way of adding sweetness and aroma to spirits than the sugar used in an Old Fashioned. What's the difference between a glass of gin and a martini? The V-word, naturally.

So WTF is it? Essentially, vermouth is wine that has been aromatised by steeping plants such as wormwood (the German name for which, Wermut, gives the drink its name) and gentian, and fortified for preservation by adding a small quantity of brandy or grappa. …

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