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A Trio of Vermouths for Your Next Manhattan
Posted: February 22, 2013
For Americans enthusiastic about such classic cocktails as the Manhattan and Martini—or even those who prefer to take their aperitifs alone—the Vermouth world just got bigger.
The Italian maker of aromatic spirits Contratto, established in 1867, is now exporting to the United States its red and white Vermouths, as well as a similar aperitif called Americano, made from their original 19th century recipes. Contratto’s contribution will certainly fill out your cocktail options as well as making you an of-the-moment bartender next time someone orders a cocktail with Vermouth at one of your soirees.
The seminal Vermouth cocktails—Manhattan and Martini—that have long been mainly distinguished by the choice of spirit brand employed—have recently gotten more complex owing to the availability of new faces in the aperitif category. This is a development we applaud. Add Contratto to that list.
Vermouth is an aromatized and fortified wine that was first created in Turin, Italy, in the late 18th century. Since then, a huge diversity of Vermouths have sprung up in that area as well as the adjacent French region of Chambery. (Contratto was founded in Canelli, also in the northwest corner of Italy.) A host of botanicals (25 to 50) typically inform the flavor of a Vermouth. (The name comes from the German for wormwood, one popular part of many recipes.) While based on wine, Vermouth, which can vary in proof from about 25 to 50, is strengthened with neutral spirits made from wine and similar to a brandy.
Even as Americans have been introduced to but a few brands in the past, Europe enjoys a great diversity of brands and styles. While Vermouth Rosso (red or sweet Vermouth) is often referred to as Italian Vermouth, Italian makers also have a tradition for making Vermouth Bianco (dry or French Vermouth).
The color of red Vermouth comes not from the wine’s color (it’s typically white) but from burnt caramel additive, which give it a dark hue and also its sweet flavor.
Americano is a traditional Italian aperitif that is similar to Vermouth, but often distinguished by its use of gentian herb as well as wormwood. The name comes not from any connection to the American continent, but rather from the root word amer-, Italian for bitter. Normally, Americanos bridge the sweetness gap between red and white Vermouths.
All of these new (to us) Contratto products make fine additions to cocktails, and in the case of the Manhattan a majestic complement to a cigar.
Contratto Vermouth Rosso (34 proof or 17 percent alcohol by volume, $32.99 for a 750 ml bottle): This complex and inviting red is based on at least 31 aromatics. While quite sweet and fruity to the nose, a sultry tartness is added in the mouth that makes the run of spice and citrus notes pop. Aromatics include coriander seeds, bay laurel leaves, yellow sweet clover, cinnamon, angelica root, nutmeg, bitter orange peel, carob tree pods, pimento seeds, rhubarb roots, sage, bark of China, lemon peel, sweet orange peel, licorice and sandal wood.
Manhattan suggestions: Its sweetness contrasts to great effect in a drier Bourbon environment such as Basil Hayden, Four Roses, Bulleit, Buffalo Trace or Woodford Reserve. Also plays well with rye: George Dickel’s new release, Rittenhouse 100 proof, Sazerac.
Comments 4 comment(s)
Frederick Amodeo — Bellport, New York, USA, — February 23, 2013 8:13am ET
Taylor Franklin — February 24, 2013 3:20am ET
JACK BETTRIDGE — NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES, — February 25, 2013 7:54am ET
Taylor Franklin — February 28, 2013 1:48am ET
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