Vermouth Cocktail – Aperitivo Fantastico

Vermouth Cocktail

It is a sad irony of my life that as I get older and my cocktail preference grows toward those which contain less ” mixers and juice, I grow less tolerant of alcohol itself. If I imbibe any more than three drinks in a single evening I run the very distinct risk of having to say good night early while putting the bottle of Motrin on the bedside table for easy access. Yup, I’ve arrived at an age where I can no longer drink alcohol purely”to get drunk” or compete in drinking games. Fortunately, I have also hit the age where I don’t consider this sacrifice a big problem.

I should feel grateful. Can you imagine how wrecked I would have gotten playing “Quarters” and “I Never” by having to guzzle a potent (but perfectly balanced) Negroni each time a quarter landed in my glass? Or what if I had to take a shot of Black Manhattan ever time I had to admit to never having done something in some place with some kind of something?

These days seeing as I’m forced by my advanced age to consume fewer cocktails I insist that each one counts for something. When one has a fixed alcohol allotment it becomes essential that each mixture isn’t too sweet or too watered down with mixer or blended ice. I want cocktails to savor, not gulp. A vodka cranberry is not going to cut it anymore. (Or lets face it, vodka period has an uphill battle to my appreciation these days.)

My preferred cocktail has to have a classic balance. A spirit, a liqueur, an acid, some sweetness, and a bitter. We are told that these are the elements of every classic cocktail, right? How nice for us that vermouth has all of these elements in a single pour!

Vermouth Cocktail

I’ve been obsessing about a premium sweet vermouth called Carpano Antica which is about as good as vermouth has a right to taste. Perfectly balanced and flavored with notes of licorice, herbs, figs, cocoa, and sweet cinnamon yet it is bone dry without a hint of cloying aftertaste. Its ridiculous how good this stuff is.

Its worthy of sipping all on its own but a Manhattan or Negroni made with Carpano is a pure joy. I used to think it was the whiskey or bourbon that made the difference where these elixirs were concerned but its not, its the vermouth.

Vermouth Cocktail

Lately I’ve been enjoying Carpano mixed into a classic vermouth cocktail. As an aperitif it pleases a discerning palate with its wondrous complexities and doesn’t have me excusing myself to go to bed too early if I have two. Whats more, it sets up your appetite for the meal ahead which is supposed to be the whole point of a cocktail, right?

Vermouth Cocktail

Vermouth Cocktail

Vermouth Cocktail

This is what you will need:

  • 2 oz. premium sweet vermouth. Please try for Carpano Antica these days.
  • 1/4 teaspoon kirsch or Grand Marnier
  • 2 dashes Payschaud's Bitters
  • Lemon peel for garnish (not optional)

This is how you make it:

  1. Combine ingredients in a mixing glass. Stir well until chilled, about 45 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel over drink and use as garnish.

About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don't know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]" means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small 'boom' in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a "food blog" or even myself a "food blogger".

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  1. Yes, each beverage needs to count.

    Bourbon is my base of choice these days – I usually save the rum for making vanilla extract.

    I think I would take my age & my more discriminating tastes over my youth and my very indiscriminate choices any day. (Not that I have a choice…)

  2. LOL at your “Quarters” mention…my youngest sister (and her cohorts) put tons of dings in our family dining room table when my parents left her home alone one weekend. Those were the days. Gorgeous drink and I’ll have to spring for some premium vermouth.

  3. Kindred spirits, so to speak. I too find that every drop must count. It’s an age thing I guess. Long gone are the all nighters, and the dreadful chug a lug. But that is alright. Youth, as they say, is wasted on the young. The older I get the more of a real appreciation I have developed for fine spirits.

    What a classic you have presented. I enjoyed reading your comments about Carpano, or what a dear friend (and cocktail lover) calls “my beloved Carpano.” A fine vermouth indeed. I am a Cocchi fan, but far be it from me to deny a man his vermouth of choice.

    I must comment on your extraordinarily evocative photographs. They remind me of having a drink in the gorgeous bar of the Four Seasons Clift in San Francisco – all dark, woody and old school. Very old school. Thank you, Trevor.

    • Ah, “Kindred Spirits” sounds like a lovely drink name doesn’t it? I will keep some Cocchi on deck for next time but I too consider the Carpano ‘beloved’. I just opened a Cocchi Americano and I’m casting about for ways to enjoy it. Any ideas?

  4. I’m in love with those glasses and the lemon ribbon.

  5. This looks perfect for a Thursday cocktail!

  6. Love love your photos, and those glasses are sexy old school! Now in my 30’s, I’ve discovered a love for the crafted cocktail instead of all the sugary “just 21” drinks!
    Tiffany @thymeoftaste

  7. Truth be told I have a bit of a hangover right now but it is a testament to your lovely photos that this post actually makes me want a drink despite that. Really, truly.

  8. Gorgeous photos, Trevor. You’ll have to fill me in on the shoot.

  9. There is no other way to make a proper Negroni – you have to use Carpano. Looks like you have joined the Carpano Snobs Anonymous Society!

    • I prefer to think of it as ‘high expectations’ rather than snobbery! But yes, there is always a bottle of it in my fridge ready for a Negroni and, of course, this vermouth cocktail.