Vermouth bleg, and cocktail open thread


Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

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30 Responses

  1. Avatar BradK says:

    Sapphire Martinis and the Pet Shop Boys.  Oh joy, oh bliss.

    I’m one of those snobby “vermouth is a garnish” types, though it’s purely about the taste and not the perception of others.  I’ve tried the classical 2/3 gin to 1/3 vermouth mixture and it’s just too darn sweet.  Though I must confess to considering all vermouths to be essentially the same.  Usually M&R, just out of familiarity and because everyone usually carries it.

    But you’ve piqued my interest.  I will promise to try this Dolin Blanc of which you speak so highly of.Report

  2. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I used to live with some friends in an apartment years back and we got low enough on stuff to drink that we tried combining Pepsi and Vermouth. It was a lot better than you would think it’d be.Report

  3. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    Dear Dr. Saunders,

    Thank you so much for this.  There are so many of us still left in the closet who share my same terrible secret:

    I like vermouth.

    By way of explanation, I don’t actually “drink” vermouth.  Don’t think I’ve ever actually tasted vermouth all on its lonesome.  But I like whisky in all its forms: with or without.  Fix me a drink or hand me the bottle, it’s all good.  [No water, no ice, though, if you please.  I’m with Barry Fitzgerald in The Quiet Man: When I drink water I drink water, when I drink whisky I drink whiskey.  ]

    [A tautology, but a necessary one.]

    But if you “fix me a drink,” a Manhattan is fun, and I like ’em “wet,”  as in go for the vermouth.  Sue me.  In for a penny, in for a pound.

    Do pardon my Wiki here:

    At first, martinis used sweet vermouth. Around 1904, however, dryer French vermouths began to be used in the cocktail. The term “dry martini” originally meant using a dryer vermouth as a mixer, not using less vermouth, as the term is used today.

    Hey, I’ve drank gin, I’ve drunken gin, and on the whole, gin is gin and doesn’t deserve the same respect as whisky.  When I drink gin, I drink gin, which is never, if we’re talking bareback here.  Does anybody order a gin straightup?  That would be like vulgar or something.

    I would not know how to go about “bruising” a gin.  Stirred not shaken, that crap? Tell me how to “bruise” a gin and I bet even if you could tell the difference [not!], you’d like the “bruised” better as likely as [not!].

    Anywayz, my dear Saunders, I like vermouth.  As we see, a “dry” martini means—meant—a drier vermouth, not less of it.

    Respectfully submitted from the clarity dept.  Rock on, you handsome hunk of vermouthian manhood, you:

    [Marcus Welby, you old fraud, eat yer heart out.  That’s what a doctor looks like.]


    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      Not really being a martini drinker, I always thought “dry” meant using a dry vermouth as well until I actually worked at a bar and discovered that “dry” nowadays refers to the amount.

      I’m with you on liking my whiskey sans H20 and at room temperature, unless it’s J&B (I prefer Scotch), in which case I take it on the rocks, or Jack, in which case I prefer it with Coke and costing something like three dollars a pop.Report

  4. Mr. Saunders, Dolin makes the absolute best vermouths known to man. Other people will suggest other kinds for various purposes, and they’ll be right, but unless you’re going to start stocking lots and lots of vermouths (and drinking them really fast), I don’t think anything can top Dolin.

    Now, unlike Mr. Van Dyke, I do just drink vermouth, from time to time. I wrote a post a bit ago about a drink that is best made with Dolin Blanc, and it also happens to be made almost entirely of vermouth:

    The lightness of Blanc can make it all wrong for a martini, but it’s useful for anything on the fruitier side. I also think it makes for an interesting Manhattan.Report

  5. Avatar Chris says:

    I like my martinis to punch me in the nose. If I dont wince a little when i drink it, Im not doing it right.

    4 parts Beefeater
    1 part Dry M&R (now ive not to seek out Dolin)
    3 large Pimento stuffed olives, large on a metal pick
    6 parts freezing

    14 parts delicious. And deadly.


    • Avatar BradK says:

      The person who introduced me to Martinis long ago instructed to always have an odd (or was it prime?) number of olives on the toothpick as an even number was bad luck.  I’ve always wondered if this was a one-off urban legend or if others have heard it as well.Report

      • Avatar brian says:

        Oh your friend is quite correct, around Western NY and here in NC, the traditional folks will call you out for being a novice. Always an odd number, preferably prime as well (you need at least one, don’t go to 9, that’s just silly).Report

  6. Avatar Dara says:

    The Pearptini:
    3 parts Hangar One pear-flavored vodka
    1 part Dolin Blanc
    1 part 2:1 honey syrup (you can make this on the stove pretty easily)
    Dash of cinnamon or nutmeg if you wish

    Shake vodka, vermouth and honey syrup with ice until well chilled; strain into chilled martini glass; add spice if desired.

    It’s more of a winter cocktail, but still.

    The Mamis:*
    1 part silver whiskey (highly recommended: High West Silver Oat)
    1 part Dolin Blanc

    Stir in cocktail shaker with ice; strain into tumbler.

    *There is probably a real name for this but I heard of it earlier this week courtesy of my dear roommate, so I’ll name it after him.Report

  7. Avatar Ian M. says:

    Vermouth is for Manhattans. The best vermouth I’ve had is Imbue –  Good luck finding it outside of Oregon (or more to the point, inside Tennessee in my case).Report

  8. Avatar Plinko says:

    I’ve only ever used vermouth for cooking (and always M+R).

    I like my gin with soda and a lime wedge or in lemonade.

    I am down to one last shot of Buffalo Trace, so I’ll be heading out to buy another bottle of bourbon shortly – if anyone wants to make a recommendation on what to try, I would be most appreciative.



    • For every day drinking, you can’t possibly go wrong with Makers or Bulleit. For something you’ve never had that isn’t very expensive, I rather like Eagle Rare or Four Roses. For something you’ve never had that is a little expensive, Blanton’s recently knocked my socks off.Report

    • I’m partial to Woodford Reserve.Report

    • Avatar Ian M. says:

      I prefer Buffalo Trace to Bulleit for cocktails (Manhattan when warm, Hot Toddy when cool). Not a real fan of bourbon whiskey though, which is a damn shame since I live in Tennessee.Report

  9. Years ago, I worked for a wine company. We had a managers meeting one day. I show up at the hotel conference room at 8 am, I haven’t eaten breakfast yet, and I desperately wanted to get some food into me. Before I had a chance to even sit down, a friend shoved a glass of red-ish liquid at me and said, ‘drink this’. It wsa red vermouth and tonic water. Skeptically, I took a sip, and it was quite good. Apparently, the two have the same flavouring agent, so they work quite well together.

    Oh how I miss business meetings that began and ended with booze.Report

  10. Avatar Plinko says:

    As I live in mortal fear of being boring.

    My life has gotten distinctly more enjoyable since I embraced boring-ness as a core element of my personality.Report

  11. Avatar Mary says:

    Slightly on topic, I went out with some girlfriends last night. I was introduced to a new drink, but no one knows what it is called, not even the bar keep. It’s 1/3 Hypnotic, 1/3 cherry vodka and 1/3 cranberry juice. It tastes exactly like fruit punch (which explains my hangover today).

    Does anyone know what this dangerously tasty drink is called?Report

  12. Avatar Damon says:

    I like some vermouth in my martinis.  I use Nolly Pratt, or did until they changed the formula.  Upon hearing this, I promptly went out and bought extra bottles of the old recipe.  I’m still using them.  One day, I’ll have to try something else when I run out.  Fair warning.  Call me a snob, but I don’t really consider using vodka a “martini”, not to speak of those damn sugar bombs like “chocotinies”.  It has to contain gin, and honestly, it should contain some vermouth.

    My ratio is @ 3 shots of gin to 1 shot of vermouth/olive brine (i like my martinis dirty. :))

    Currently I use Tanquery 10.  Tried Hendricks and didn’t like it.  Let your criticism fly!Report

    • Avatar brian says:

      I was with you on the vodka martini snobbery but cannot support your disdain for Hendrick’s!Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        Brian, I was unclear.  I didn’t like Hendricks in my martini, but do like it in Gin and Tonics.  🙂  It’s good gin, but with the vermouth and olive brine, the nuances get lost.Report

  13. Avatar Neil K says:


    My love of martini’s is only eclipsed by my love of vermouth…I know that probably makes me one of the few people that love vermouth, however let me chime in on this debate.

    The Martini cocktail is a derivative of the Classic 1800’s cocktail called “The Martinez” using Old Tom Gin, Sweet Vermouth, and marachino liqueur.  The modern Martini was made popular in the 1930’s when it was mixes as a 3:1 Gin to Vermouth cocktail, and remained that way until after Prohibition.  Immediately after Prohibition, the US was importing up to 6 Million Cases of Vermouth a year.  My theory behind that was that the bathtub gins, and gut-rot whiskeys that were rushed into production needed, something sweet, and complex to mask the poor quality of American Spirits that were being produced after prohibition.  As the quality of the spirits increased, less and less Vermouth was needed to balance out the “grain” flavors of the young spirits.

    Eventually, with the Rise of Vodka in the 60’s and 70’s, in conjunction with the elevated use of cocane in clubs, the balanced 3:1 martini lost favor with the fast living drinkers of the cocaine era.

    Now with the rise of modern cocktailing, Vermouth has found its way back into favor again.  Traditionaly there was no such thing as a “Vodka Martini”.  A martini cocktail can only be made with Gin and Dry vermouth.  However, with the evolution of modern drinkers, the Americanized “Vodka Martini” (chilled vodka in a martini glass) has become part of the nomenclature.

    The “Dirty Gin” martini…is not actually a martini, however does have a history in Australia as “The Kangaroo Cocktail”.  Personaly, the idea of putting olive juice in gin, is as appealing as putting chicken stock on chocolate cake.  There is no place for it.  However, the traditional 3:1 or 4:1 gin martini with an olive in it is delightful as a “sweet and salty” combination.

    Why gin and Vermouth?  Because they are very similar.  Gin in grain alcohol distilled several times with herbs and spices to basically make a “flavored Vodka”.  Vermouth is wine, fortified for with brandy, and soaked with herbs and spices.  Often the herbal recipe of gin and vermouth can be very similar.  Therefore vermouth becomes a natural bedfellow of gin.  Vermouth adds a very subtle sweetness, and creaminess to the gin, while not distracting from the structure of the juniper driven spirit.  A lemon twist expresses aromatic oils and binds the cocktail together, while adding an olive is like adding a pinch of salt to caramel.  A delightful juxtaposition of flavors.

    Imbue vermouth was crafted by a bartender with the modern or “New American” Gins in mind.  It will change your point of view on vermouth and martinis.

    Check it out at Astor Wines.Report