• John B. Reyna

Dolin out delicious vermouth



Vermouth is an incredibly important cocktail ingredient. And you'll find it everywhere from your local dive bar to craft cocktail houses. But it's highly misunderstood. Seriously, the next time you walk into a bar, take a look and see if the vermouth is sitting in the well or if it's refrigerated. Hopefully, it's the latter because that effort reflects the respect that should be given to vermouth.


If you'd rather watch our video about Dolin, here's a video on our YouTube channel for your viewing pleasure:


Vermouth is made all over the world so we can't cover all vermouths that you may encounter. Narrowing down to French vermouth, there are two brands that you are likely to find in your local store: Dolin and Noilly Prat. Every vermouth uses it own secret recipe and choice botanicals, so I am not going to say one brand is better than the other. You should try them all, and some may be better in certain cocktails. For this article, we will focus on Dolin. But first . . .


What is vermouth?


Vermouth is a fortified wine aromatized with a variety of herbs, roots, spices, and other aromatics. Fortified means that a spirit, often brandy, is added to the wine. It is more shelf stable than your everyday wine, but should still be kept in the fridge and used within a few months of opening. If your vermouth has been open a while, be sure to try a spoonful before using it in a cocktail. Over time, it will start to turn to vinegar, and then works great for cooking.


You should try vermouth on its own. The complexity of flavors from the mix of wine, fortifying spirit, and botanicals is truly delicious by itself. This is why it is worth spending a few extra dollars and purchasing quality vermouth.


And if you take one thing away from this post: PLEASE REFRIGERATE YOUR VERMOUTH ONCE OPEN.


Quinquina and Americano


We can't discuss vermouth without acknowledging Quinquina and Americano, which are two other types of fortified and aromatized wine. Closely related, we've discussed Quinquinas in our post about Lillet, which adds quinine to the mix. We will cover Americanos in a future post. Not American, but instead based on the Italian word "amer" for bitter. These aromatized wines, like Cocchi Americano, add extra bitter components like gentian root.


History of Vermouth


In 1786, Italian distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano created an aromatized wine and called it “Wermut.” While aromatized wines had been around since 6200 BC, Carpano is credited with creating an incredibly complex and high quality infusion that was available to the general population for the first time. It's speculated that the name comes from the German word for wormwood—wermut. However, according to Adam Ford, whose book Vermouth: A Spirited Revival, with 40 Modern Cocktails provides a historical exploration of this fortified wine, "Carpano's Vermut wasn't a wormwood wine . . . [but] played off the name of the most popular Mediterranean plant at the time." The Carpano company "itself takes the position that 'the origin of this name is not certain, but it probably derives from the German word for absinthe.'"


Today, most vermouths use wormwood as a formality. You don’t really taste the wormwood. Still, Carpano’s use of the word “wermut” stuck and slowly morphed into a category of aromatized wines called “vermouth.”


Types of vermouth


There are three types of vermouth you are likely to find:


1. Rouge vermouth: Often called sweet vermouth, it is a staple for a Manhattan, negroni, martinez and so many more. In classic cocktail books, references to Italian vermouth mean rouge (rosso in Italian) vermouth. Dark red or brown in color, you enjoy a complexity of floral, fruit, citrus, nut, and herb aromas.


2. Dry vermouth: In classic cocktail literature, dry vermouth may be referred to as French vermouth. In the mid 1800s, dry vermouth was all the rage. No drink symbolizes dry vermouth more than the king of cocktails—the martini. The color is clear or straw-colored. While dry vermouth is technically dry, many versions have a touch of sweetness but are still drier than rouge or blanc vermouths. You may find tropical and stone fruit flavor along with the floral bouquet you get on the nose.


3. Blanc vermouth: This vermouth is clear or straw-colored like dry vermouth, but the sugar content is more similar to a rouge. You’ll find this in many cocktails like the white negroni and corpse reviver #2. Every bit as flavorful as its two siblings, blanc vermouth may actually be the most versatile. Seen as more herb centric and less spicy than rouge sweet vermouths. Dolin is credited with creating the first blanc style vermouth.


One last note about vermouth's color. Almost all these vermouths have a white wine or mistelle base. Mistelle is the result of adding alcohol to the juice of crushed grapes rather than fermenting them to produce alcohol. The vast majority of red vermouths achieve their coloration through other ingredients rather than the wine itself. Yes, you read that correctly. Most rouge vermouths are made from white wine or white mistelle base. Use that knowledge at your next dinner party or happy hour! Generally, caramel coloring (burnt sugar) provides the red hue to sweet vermouth.


Dolin, Vermouth de Chambery


© Dolin


There are a lot of vermouth brands out there, and in the future we plan to explore many of them. For this first installment into vermouth, we want to showcase a brand that is easy to find and incredibly delicious—Dolin.


Dolin produces world-class vermouth in Savoie, located in south eastern France. (As a side note, don't sleep on wines from Savoie. Very tasty. But that's for another post.) Dolin vermouth has been produced since the 1820s using a secret recipe composed of over 30 botanicals foraged from the foot of the alps. Focused on bringing out the terroir, Dolin proudly utilizes only local ingredients.


History of Dolin


© Dolin


An absinthe distiller and liquorist, Joseph Chavasse, began playing with an aromatized wine in 1821 after trying Italian 'vermout'. He was initially inspired to get into the liquor business from the nearby Grand Chartreuse monastery, but saw a great future in aromatized wines. By 1830, his vermouth was commercially sold and business began to take off. His son-in-law, Louis-Ferdinand Dolin, became involved and purchased the distillery in 1852.


When Louis-Ferdinand died, his wife, Marie Dolin-who was the Chavesse’s daughter-took over the company in 1869. The vermouth craze of the late 1800s was beginning. She thought big and took on the challenge of crossing the Atlantic to win the gold medal in 1876 at the Philadelphia World Fair. Many awards and marketing campaigns followed, exposing Dolin worldwide.


Dolin went through hards times during WW1, American prohibition, and WW2. The company was purchased in 1919 by two local brothers who kept it afloat. The Sevez brothers were family friends who owned a nearby grocery chain. Dolin is still independently owned, which is not so common these days. Plus, it is easy to find at your local liquor store. And at ~$15, it’s worth every penny.


Vermouth cocktails


You can use vermouth in cocktails to highlight other ingredients. You can also make cocktails that highlight the vermouth. Yes, it is that good.


These vermouth based cocktails often fall into the larger category of aperitif cocktails. They are simple and low in alcohol. This makes them the perfect weeknight or Sunday funday sipper. They are also a great way to stimulate your appetite in preparation for your meal.


Cocktail time!

Adonis


1.5oz Rouge Vermouth

1.5oz Fino or Manzanilla Sherry

1 dash orange bitters

Add all ingredients into a Mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.


The Adonis first appeared in print in 1887 to celebrate the Broadway burlesque musical, Adonis. Adonis became the longest running Broadway show of its era, with over 600 performances. The Waldorf Astoria is credited with creating this cocktail in its honor at 500 shows. Enjoy our cocktail demonstration here:


Next up . . .


Bamboo


.75oz Dry Vermouth

.75 Blanc Vermouth

1.5oz Fino Sherry

1 dash orange bitters

1 dash angostura bitters

Add all ingredients into a Mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.


The Bamboo is a lighter, but equally fun cousin of the Adonis. First appearing in the early 1900s, the Bamboo was made with dry vermouth. Harry Craddock of Savoy's American Bar first played with making it “perfect” (i.e., equal parts sweet vermouth and dry vermouth) in the 1930s. We tried a lot of options and enjoyed this version the best. If you desire a dryer cocktail, remove the blanc and up the dry vermouth to 1.5oz. Watch a video demonstration here:


Last Call


While we love some boozy cocktails, low-proof cocktails, like the Adonis and Bamboo, are flavorful drinks that won't knock you off your barstool. Plus, finding other uses for vermouth besides the Martini and Manhattan will help you burn through that bottle of vermouth before it oxidizes.


Enjoy that vermouth; it’s the gift that keeps on giving!


Sipping low alcohol cocktails,

Shen


P.S. Don't worry, mom. A sherry article will come soon!


P.S.S. My mom's name is Sherrie, and she's a fan of the Adonis!


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