It feels like vermouth is having a bit of a moment these days, isn’t it? It’s a moment that has been years in the making of course—I remember a few years ago when my friends at Saugatuck Grain and Grape were sampling tastes of a ridiculously delicious sweet vermouth that I had previously never heard of, and then a couple of years later one of the helpful people at Fairway’s wine shop was enthusiastically recommending a bottle of Vya to complete a little gift to Michael of Manhattan fixings. Now Spanish vermouth is getting stronger traction here, with brands both old and (seemingly) modern popping up in tapas bars and liquor stores alike with greater frequency.
I am by no means an expert on the stuff, but lately I’ve found myself embracing it and not simply as a mixer to go with whiskey or gin, or even as a substitute for regular wine in cooking. There are some really delicious brands out there and served in the way they were designed to be enjoyed…I have to say that I might be open to fer un vermut (or “to do a vermouth”) more often. As it is the case with many new experiences, however, I’ve found that this is often best done with the help of a familiar intermediary, and here cava is the ideal companion to convince you that vermouth is a mighty fine beverage component and not something to merely look at when fixing a martini.
If I had to be completely honest, however, I’d have to admit that I was sold on Vermut Negre specifically well before I ever had a taste—the sweet bottle and graphics found on it caught my attention quickly, as did its Barcelona provenance. If nothing else I knew it would look amazing on our new shelves devoted to wine and spirits because I’m shallow like that, but I was curious to give the stuff a try as well. This stuff isn’t your grandparents’ Martini & Rossi—while sweet, it’s also quite smoky, and when slightly diluted by the cava, it makes for a very smooth, very easy-drinking cocktail. I have a store of Angostura-poached orange peels from Franny’s that I moved from Stamford, and one in each flute served as the perfect garnish and added another layer of complexity to the drink.
Maybe I’m saying this because I’ve rewatched the first season of Top Chef in its entirety on HuluPlus within the past three days, but I feel pretty confident that if I served this as a signature cocktail during the finale challenge, the judges would go gaga over it. (Or at least they would have back in the halcyon days of 2006.)
Vermut Negre isn’t as ubiquitous as other brands just yet, but I have found this site to be really useful in helping me locate it down here in Baltimore. Calling your favorite store and asking them to get it for you is another option, albeit one that may require you to wait until 2015 to try it.
(Trust me, it’s worth the wait.)
Cava-Vermut Negre Fizz
Makes one cocktail
- 1 oz Vermut Negre
- 1 Angostura-Poached Orange Peel (see recipe below)
- Cava of choice for topping (about 5 oz depending on the size of the flute)
Drop one poached orange peel into the bottom of the champagne flute, add the Vermut Negre, and then top with cava. Serve immediately.
Angostura-Poached Orange Peels
Adapted from Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian
- 3 navel oranges
- 1 cup water
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup Angostura bitters (I ran out and added some orange bitters as well)
Carefully strip the oranges of their peels using a vegetable peeler, leaving as little of the white pith as possible. (Alton Brown suggests using a sharp paring knife to get out the remaining bits.) Combine the peels, the water, sugar, and bitters into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high-heat. Reduce and simmer for another 45 minutes uncovered, until the liquid has reduced to a syrup and can coat the back of a spoon per Franny’s instructions. Simply remove from the heat, let cool, then store in a plastic container and chill to store.