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!
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.
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?