Demystifying vermouth

The Alchemist tasting panel samples the fortified, aromatized elixir

Vermouth ranges from palest straw to deep ruby red, with flavours to match. Dan Toulgoet photo

Vermouth is not just an essential ingredient in many cocktails, it is already a cocktail, a wine fortified with spirits and flavoured with herbs, spices and other botanicals. And it’s enjoying a major comeback right now.

Five of Vancouver’s top bartenders gathered on a rainy afternoon at Tableau Bar Bistro to taste this beguiling product: Sabrine Dhaliwal, bar manager of Juke Fried Chicken and Beetbox; Adam Domet, bar manager at Pourhouse; J-S Dupuis, beverage director of Wentworth Hospitality; Robyn Gray of Elisa Steakhouse; and Katie Ingram, bar manager at Elisa Steakhouse.

They all love vermouth. “It’s rich in flavour and lower in alcohol,” Ingram said. “And we’re all flavour junkies. So we get that fix of citrus and bitterness and everything you’re looking for.” Besides, with prices as low as $12 for a litre bottle, vermouth is also a complete bargain.

The panel tasted 16 local and international vermouths. Here’s what they had to say.

Continue Reading

Bitter & sweet

Why you should be drinking vermouth made in B.C.

At MARKET at the Shangri-la Hotel in Vancouver, head bartender Gianluigi Bosco makes his own house-aromatized and fortified wines. Leila Kwok photo

More than 200 years ago, wine drinkers in Turin and Marseille started adding bittering and flavouring botanicals to wine fortified with spirit, to make an entirely new drink. The styles they created—a sweeter, reddish-brown style in Italy and a drier white-wine version in France—are iconic today, and collectively known as vermouth, a term that comes from the root word for wormwood, which is synonymous in many languages with “bitter.”

Now enjoying a renaissance thanks to cocktail mixology and the Spanish-driven trend for sipping them solo or as a spritz, vermouths should have a place on your back bar. (Actually, in your fridge, where a red vermouth will stay fresh for several months, and white vermouth for several weeks after opening.) Here are three new and three favourite B.C. bottlings to try.

Continue Reading

Citrus Breeze

Gianluigi Bosco’s Citrus Breeze. Leila Kwok photo

This refreshing spritz recipe by Gianluigi Bosco, head bartender at MARKET at the Shangri-la Hotel, uses a vermouth you can make yourself.

• 3 oz Citrus Wine (recipe below)
• 0.25 oz melissa and peppermint hydrosols (see note)
• 2 dashes citric acid, available at gourmet stores
• Soda water, to taste
• Orange zest and mint, for garnish

Continue Reading

Lost Horizon

Lost horizon by Market at Shangri-La’s Gianluigi Bosco is inspired by the book and movie that introduced the world to the magical land of Shangri-la. Leila Kwok photo

Recipe by Gianluigi Bosco, head bartender at MARKET at the Shangri-la Hotel in Vancouver. Lost Horizon, of course, was the book and movie that introduced the world to the magical land of Shangri-la.

• 1.5 oz O5 Time Traveller tea-infused Sons of Vancouver vodka (see note)
• 1 oz semi-clarified fresh orange juice (see note)
• 0.5 oz Citrus Wine (recipe below)
• 0.5 oz Kopan Masala Syrup (recipe below)
• 5 dashes citric acid (available from gourmet shops)
• 1 egg white
• Angostura bitters, for garnish

Continue Reading

Mi Luz

Mi Luz means “My Light” in Spanish and pays homage to the light within that burns strong when everyone stands tall and together. Talia Kleinplatz photo

• 2 oz Bacardi Añejo Cuatro rum
• 0.75 oz Martini Bianco vermouth
• 0.25 oz rich apple demerara syrup (see note)
• 2 dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange Bitters
• 2 to 3 spritzes of salted caraway solution (see note)

Continue Reading

Bamboo

Bamboo cocktail. Istockphoto.com photo

Nobody really knows the back story of this sherry-based cocktail from the 19th century, but we do know that it quenches our thirst for all things low-proof and lightly bittered.

• 1.5 oz dry sherry
• 1.5 oz dry vermouth
• 1 dash Angostura bitters
• 1 dash orange bitters

Continue Reading

Amour for amaro

The Alchemist’s tasting panel revels in the complexities of made-in-B.C. amaros, vermouths and aperitifs

The lineup (l to r): Long Table Distillery’s Linnaeus Amaro No. 1, de Vine’s Moderna Vermouth, The Woods Spirit Co’s Pacific Northwest Amaro, Goodrich and Williams’ Bitterhouse Rubato, Bitterhouse DaMan and Bitterhouse LaDame aperitifs, Legend Distilling’s Naramaro amaro, Odd Society’s Mia Amata amaro and Bittersweet Vermouth. Dan Toulgoet photo

Consider them the supporting actors of the cocktail world: complex, helpful and a little bitter. Vermouths, aperitifs and amaros are typically fortified wines—though some are sweet enough to be considered liqueurs—flavoured with botanicals such as citrus peel, spices, roots and herbs. They typically have a somewhat bitter profile, hence the name “amaro,” which means bitter in Italian.

It takes a sophisticated palate to appreciate a good bitter drink, so not too surprisingly, Vancouver bartenders were eager to sample the best of B.C. amaros. We sat down with Alex Black of Tableau Bar Bistro, Amber Bruce of The Keefer Bar, cocktail consultant Sabrine Dhaliwal, Robyn Gray of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia and The Botanist’s Jeff Savage to get at the bitter truth.

Continue Reading

Stay home and have The Alchemist delivered to you! Use code COCKTAILHOUR to get 20% off any in-stock single issue and code MAKEITAROUND to get 10% off a subscription. Dismiss