Saturday, April 18, 2009
I'm learning a lot about some cocktails I thought I knew via the collection of Dolin vermouths I recently acquired. Dolin is a traditional French vermouth company. It's about 200 years old, but newly available in certain U.S. markets via Eric Seed's import company in Minnesota. They make dry, rouge and blanc versions of vermouth, and they are overall a much more subtler, gentler product that the commonly available vermouth brands, such as Martini & Rossi and Noilly Prat. Dolin is among the few remaining independent producers of Vermouth and the last producing Vermouth de Chambéry.
Using them in some classics, I've come to reevaluate my opinion of certain drinks and how they should taste. I've been used to a certain edge in Martinis that I haven't always liked, but usually attributed to a natural rawness in the gin. Now, I've begun to wonder if that unwelcome bite was in the vermouth. When I mix up a Martini with Dolin dry, it's a much smoother drink, a calmer drink, a more elegant drink.
I had similar experiences with the Manhattan, Negroni and other classics.
Last night, I tried the vermouths in a Martinez. I have always had a problem with the Martinez. I know I'm supposed to respect this drink, because its ages old and may be the precursor of the Martini and all. But, to me, it's never been a favorite. I just don't think it tastes good, with its lopsided 2 to 1 ratio of sweet vermouth to gin. I also found the drink's color, an unputting ruddy, rust-like hue, disagreeable. I never find myself thinking, "Hm, I'm really in the mood for a Martinez."
I thought perhaps the Dolin could remedy this situation. So I built a Martinez (1 oz. gin, 2 oz. sweet vermouth, a dash orange bitters, 2 dashes Maraschino liqueur) used Dolin Rouge. Aha! A much better drink. Not so rough and sickly sweet, heavy and nastily herbal.
Then I had an idea. What if I made a Martinez with the Dolin Blanc, which has the clear color of the Dry, with some of the sweetness of the Rouge. What do you know? A superior drink, smooth as ice, with an understated sweetness. Refreshing and civilizing, a genuine treat. True, a bit dull to look at (utterly clear), but, then, so is a Martini, when you think of it.