Vermouth is booming in Europe right now, so I’ve done the hard yards in order find out more about it.
Cocktails are all the rage these days, with bearded bartenders shaking their cocktail mixers all over the place, and vermouth is used in many of them. My experience of vermouth was limited to Australian tennis champ John Newcombe’s television advertisements for Cinzano in the 1970’s. However it is a quintessentially Italian drink – made from fortified wine and aromatics and first produced in Turin in the late 18th century. It was originally used for medicinal purposes, but soon found favour as an aperitif and, latterly, as a key cocktail ingredient.
Fortunately, my woeful ignorance of this delicious beverage was thoroughly addressed one day in it’s home-town when The Bloke and I attended a vermouth workshop, one of the activities on offer during the recent Slow Food Terra Madre.
The workshop was hosted by Riservo Carlo Alberto, an Italian family business who once supplied refreshments to the Savoy royal family, before Italy’s unification. The workshop began very well indeed, with each participant being presented with a perfectly constructed Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth and soda water), before we were guided through a tasting of Riserva Carlo Alberto’s vermouth range of red, white, dry and extra dry.
Their recipe dates back to 1837 and is produced using white wines from two DOCG’s ((Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – the highest classification for Italian wines). The wine is fortified and then has various aromatics added and it is this which distinguishes each of the different brands. Riserva pride themselves on the high quality of their wine and the selection of 27 herbs they use in their range – 25 different aromatics in their white and red vermouth and 21 in their extra dry.
I’m now in a position to tell you that there are not too many happier ways to spend an afternoon – our hosts were generous and informative. Our tuition wrapped up with each of us being served that most Italian of cocktails, a divine Negroni (gin, vermouth rosso and Campari) – a lusty drink which embraces both sweet and bitter flavour profiles.
My education complete, I decided to conclude my afternoon with a nap. 😉