Saturday, July 21, 2007

Vermouth: The Bastard Stepchild of the Cocktail

I'm using as the heading for this item the title that Ted Haigh wished to name his and Martin Doudoroff's seminar about Vermouth.

Vermouth—the second essential ingredient to any Martini, and yet your average Joe knows very little about it, aside that it comes in sweet and dry versions.

"Each one of these producers has their own story and their own mythology," said Doudoroff, "and usually it begins with some kind of immaculate conception." He examined the label of a bottle of Martini and Rossi with skepticism, calling into question the year of the firm's foundation and the awards the mixture supposedly won. "Every part of a maker's mythology should be taken with a grain a salt."

Each Vermouth recipe is a company secret. As a result, the drink is, in part, a Libation of Mystery, and many of the questions posed by the crowd could not be answered, or were answered with "Good question." Said Doudoroff: "These people are very cagey."

Ted Haigh waded in with a bit of the history of Vermouth, its rise and fall in U.S. Interestingly, he placed its downfall at the feet of the drink that made it most famous. "The Martini became the anti-cocktail," he said. "It was the deconstructed cocktail. After World War II, people began leaving out the bitters, then leaving out the vermouth and making jokes about it."

There was also a little talk about Quinquinas. Whazzat? Well, it's a term that covers such aromatized, fortified wines like Dubonnet and Lillet, products Haigh said are treated like "third class citizens." Quinquina is French for "quinine-bearing wine." The bitter constituent in Quinquinas is always quinine.

All in all, an informative and well-put-together seminar, with many tips on how to best enjoy vermouth. Most important to know is that Vermouth, like Chiquita bananas, should always be kept in the refrigerator.

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