The intrepid cocktailians participating in Mixology Monday have tackled some interesting things: spice, guilty pleasures, 19th-century cocktails, strong drinks. They've even asserted that vodka is your friend...something that can be a stretch for many cocktail aficionados.
Well, it enjoys a somewhat better reputation among the cocktailian cognoscenti than it does among the greater public, but vermouth is similarly (and unfairly) maligned by many. There's the infamous "Churchill Martini", the invention of one Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill, KG, OM, CH, et cetera, who really should have known better. It consists of a glass of very cold gin, an olive or three, and a bow in the direction of France (or a glance toward the bottle of vermouth, or some other foofaw involving not actually putting it in one's drink.) There are the protestations from friends and fellow barflies that they don't like vermouth, and I can say I really don't blame them...if your sole experience is of vermouth from dusty, warm half-empty bottles that have moldered away on a back bar since the Carter Administration, you aren't going to like vermouth very much. One can even buy ridiculous products to atomize it in your drink. But that's not necessary, and if you go down that road, you're missing out on a great ingredient.
When the trumpets sound and Judgment Day comes, we mortals will have plenty for which to account. While it falls many points below unforgivable crimes such as destruction of the rain forest, global warming and the green-lighting of "The Love Guru," the decline in vermouth's fortunes from 19th century dandy to outcast of the speed rail certainly ranks on the list of modern offenses. . .
"Bartenders are taught to treat (vermouth) like toxic waste," says cocktail historian David Wondrich.
Wondrich notes that vermouth revolutionized mixology when it entered heavy usage in the late 1880s, and vermouth-heavy drinks of the era - such as prototypes of the martini and the Manhattan, which were made with twice as much vermouth as gin or whiskey - earned the cocktail a new level of sophistication. "By the 1890s it's like every drink has vermouth in it," Wondrich says. "They were completely crazy about this stuff."
As well they should be; quality vermouth stored correctly is a complex, aromatic, flavorful ingredient that adds a lot to a base spirit. (Go read the rest of Paul's article right now if you haven't already; it's a fantastic primer on vermouth -- how to use it, its history, some tasting notes, and even some recipes.)
So: your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to present a delectable vermouth cocktail for us all to drool over. Sweet/Italian or dry/French vermouth are fair game of course, as are quinquina, aperitif wines like Pineau des Charentes, or for that matter any fortified, aromatized wine such as Lillet (red or white), or Dubonnet (ditto.) Have fun, and leave the link in the comments to this post by midnight PDT (no, not this PDT) (3am EDT) Tuesday, October 27th. In other words, you have a little over a week to get it done, and as long as you submit it sometime by Monday, you'll get in under the wire. I look forward to the results!