Serious Eats: Recipes

Vermouth Cocktail

[Photograph: Paul Clarke]

Spirits such as whiskey or gin pack a flavorful punch in cocktails, but as I wrote yesterday, sometimes you're looking for a drink that doesn't have quite the boozy wallop, but still doesn't skimp on flavor.

While low-alcohol cocktails are popping up on beverage menus around the country, the concept of a low-octane refresher is anything but new. Here's a drink that's among the earliest examples of lower-potency concoctions: the Vermouth Cocktail.

During the 1870s and 1880s, Italian vermouth (AKA rosso or sweet vermouth) was still a fairly new product in American bars, and bartenders were pouring it liberally into all types of cocktails, including ancestors of familiar drinks such as the Manhattan and the martini. Today we usually think of vermouth as a mixer (assuming we think about it at all), but 19th century bartenders were pretty generous with the dosage, and the Vermouth Cocktail had a good run of popularity, with good reason. A decent vermouth, properly stored, is absolutely delicious.

This drink is dead simple to prepare, but keep a few tips in mind:

The Vermouth Cocktail illustrates the flavorful beauty of good vermouth, with just a little adornment. If you're prone to dismiss this drink out of hand because it's based on vermouth, then you're denying yourself the opportunity to see what the original fuss from the nineteenth century was all about.

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