Drinking Vermouth. On Purpose.

May 17, 2020

Drinking Vermouth. On Purpose.

Corey Nuffer and friends joined us for a virtual cocktail tasting, talking about their love of the misunderstood vermouth. (And remember, our vermouth tasting bundle is available for purchase!)

Here’s more from Corey: 

We want you to drink vermouth. On purpose. With us. 

If you’re local, you’ve probably heard of Westport Rivers Vineyard and Winery, and hopefully, you’ve been there. The New York Times once wrote, “Between the landscape and the wines we thought we were in Europe.” Translation: Rolling hills of vines, grassy meadows where you can take a load off, and with glass in hand, lean back in the Adirondack chair you just scored (there are many scattered about), pull a long inhale from the bouquet that’s welling up in the bowl of the glass, take a sip, close your eyes, listen to the bird song, and channel that feeling of being somewhere else while at the same time grateful that it was so close. 

Now, imagine that it’s the afternoon in your home. You’ve been working for hours, and something in you feels like a pause should happen. Along with tea, the British will often mark this time of the day with sherry. Just a wee bit. And then, back to work. The Spaniards do something a little different. In Spain (and all over Europe, really), you might prep a bit of salty cheese. Aged parm, let’s say. The kind with the crunchy bits in it. Oh! And there are some olives left. And maybe a nibbles-worth of prosciutto you plate up. Heck. Put them all on a cutting board and call it good. You pour yourself a little wine, infused with vanilla bean and orange peels. Perhaps a little rose petal and angelica. And other herbs that festoon together a sip that feels familiar and yet--you need to take another sip to make sure. Along with the infusion of deliciousness, this wine also has a little kick to it. Yes, something flammable has been added. It’s not enough to burn but enough to give pause at the slightest flex of spirit in that sip. Floral. Sheet cake-like. Inhabiting the sip like a shadow that’s yet to emerge. You’ve frozen some grapes and are using those for ice cubes. You are classy. You are thoughtful. You are taking a proper break. And then you’ll get back to work. In a bit. 

Photo credit: Dante, New York City

This is vermouth done right. And it’s a misunderstood word, vermouth. Because of this, I usually deconstruct it, ingredient by ingredient. I mention the wine first, and then the infusion, and then the higher alcohol. But I have to work hard because when I mention the name, vermouth, so many shut down. I’ve had the most incredible stink eye thrown my way. I’ve been lectured at by folks who’ve been bartenders all their lives. Why would you ever drink that by itself! Eww, is the usual line I hear.

And yes, there are many sad, unsippable vermouths out there in the world. Neglected in the wells of bars, undated, unrefrigerated. There to just exist, for just a moment in all their oxidated glory, in a martini glass and then, “Swoosh!” Down the drain. I get it. I’ve been there. For years I did that. And then one day, I was tasked with selling it. At its source.

Almost no one in the country starts off as a vermouth drinker. It’s usually through cocktails that this ingredient begins to catch the eye more and more. And then one day you notice that a restaurant makes their own. Or that there’s a new type of vermouth in a familiar cocktail, and you think, Oh! How exciting! But to drink it neat, frozen grapes or not, is still on the periphery of most dining experiences. 

We get it, and so, we have brought in our vermouth guy, Chris Goyer, to demystify further this quixotic, curious concoction. And yes, along with world-class Champagne Methods and Chardonnays and Farmers Fizzes, we’ve been quietly making vermouths. For years. But over the past couple of years, the hipsters have discovered not only craft cocktails, but vermouths, in general. Our time has come. :) And along with being a hipster, Chris has been pushing the envelope when it comes to our vermouths. From dandelions growing amid our vines to local Westport honey (thank you, Hana’s Honey!) to rose petals and jasmine and even different types of basewine (including our Champagne Methods!), Chris is always imagining a more interesting sip. When he’s not making vermouth, Chris can be found trail running, playing drums (he’s in a band and proficient on numerous instruments; yes, he’s one of those superhumans), listening to jazz and the Grateful Dead. Chris also likes birds. 

Jessika Blair, another local mixologist, will be joining us to talk about one of those famous vermouth cocktails, the Manhattan. Yes, this will involve the Westport Rivers “S” sweet vermouth. Jessika also is competing, as one does, in the regionals level the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience, something that will happen sometime this fall. Along with the exotic “S,” Jessika will dazzle us with her take on the Manhattan. A blow torch is involved, but you can do this with an oven as well. Jessika would also recommend early 00’s emo as your ambient drinking music, a genre she finds still very much alive. It is! And if you want to join us with official drink in hand, get yourself a bottle of Woodford Reserve Bourbon, cardamom bitters (Lees in Westport has it for sure, but call ahead to your local favorite packy/shop before heading over), our “S” vermouth (which is for sale right here in The Drawing Room), and an orange slice or peel. You can buy single bottles or a special vermouth tasting bundle of three varieties.