“I think more and more people are trying V&Ts,” says an enthusiastic Jack Bevan. According to the drinks expert, vermouth with tonic is the new G&T.
“I know lots of people who are drinking it instead of gin and tonic because vermouth has similar aromatics to gin, but it’s much lower in alcohol,” says Bevan.
Bevan can advise me on which vermouth to tarnish my liver with in every eventuality. But first of all, what exactly is vermouth? “It’s an aromatised wine that’s made with lots of different botanicals,” says Bevan. “Wormwood is the defining ingredient, but it also has bitters and a sweetness to it, so it’s like a pink gin, but it’s only 14.5-22 per cent.”
Here’s how to drink it…
“Punt E Mes is brilliant in a V&T, because it’s vibrant and full of power. Have it with Fever-Tree Indian tonic, lots of ice, and blood orange for a garnish. I’d go for a highball glass, but because it’s along the lines of a spritz, it also works well in a decent size wine glass.”
“Negroni is one of the most popular cocktails at the moment and lots of people make it with 25ml of each ingredient, but I dial back the Campari to 15ml, and combine that with 35 ml gin and 25 ml vermouth. For a classic Negroni, I’d put a Cocchi Vermouth di Torino with a Sipsmith London Dry Gin; for a very approachable Negroni, I’d go for a Martini Rubeno with Chase gin, and for a really gutsy Negroni, Punt E Mes works well with The Botanist Islay Dry Gin, which is made on a Hebridean island from foraged ingredients.”
“Martinis are usually made with gin, but a vodka martini is a great drink if you like vermouth, because the neutral taste of the vodka means you’ll be able to taste the subtler flavours in the vermouth. For the perfect vodka martini, I’d blend two vermouths – Cocchi Americano which is aromatic with orange in it, and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino which is sweet. Mixing the two will add some bitterness and dry out a bit of the sweetness. Use 7.5ml of each and have that with Black Cow vodka which is made in Dorset.”
“Rose vermouth is perfect to drink in the afternoon on a really hot summery day. I recommend Regal Rogue – drink it as a spritz, in a wine glass with tonic, for a summer aperitif. Fresh rhubarb is lovely as a garnish, or a slice of lemon and maybe even something pickled like a caper berry or an olive.”
On the Rocks
“If I’m going to drink vermouth straight, I usually go for herbaceous, rustic, sweet, red Spanish style vermouths, because they’ve evolved with tapas culture and they’re made to be drunk with food. Go for Lacuesta, Padro & Co. or Lustau which is made in Andalucia where they use sherry for the wine base. Pour it over ice in a tumbler, then add a brined olive and a slice of orange. It works well with salty, fatty, fried food, and in Barcelona or Madrid, the Spanish would drink it with one or two things on the side, like sardines or a Gilda, which is a stick with a pickled gherkin, a pepper and an olive. For tapas and vermouth in London, go to Morito, or Moro and ask for El Bandarra – the bottle alone is gorgeous! I also like some Spanish style white vermouths as dessert wines. They work really well if you’re having a lovely tart, or a cheese course, with salty blue cheeses like stilton.”
Last Words of Wisdom
“Keep your vermouth in the fridge and once it’s opened, seal it with a rubber cork and drink it within six weeks. You can’t beat French vermouth Noilly Prat as a dry white in a gin martini (you’ll find it in every decent bar), but if you have some going spare, use it as an alternative to white wine for cooking mussels!”
A Spirited Guide to Vermouth by Jack Adair Bevan (Headline Home, £16.99) is out now.
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