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Dry Vermouth Hunting

October 3, 2010

When it comes down to it, I’m a hoarder.  I like to keep stuff.  I like to hold onto things for a special occasion.  The last few sips from a precious bottle of booze seem to linger in my liquor cabinet for far too long.  There are still a couple of bottles of wedding wine left, and Mrs. Fussy and I have been married almost a decade.

I’m trying to get better, and luckily there are events like Open That Bottle Night aimed at getting people like me to loosen up a bit.

But last week I hit a setback.

To understand the situation, you might need a bit of history about one notable brand of aromatized wine, Noilly Prat dry vermouth.  In some ways vermouth is like sherry.  People think they hate it because there is so much cheap bad stuff on the market.  Finding good vermouth in a wine and spirits shop is much harder than it should be.

For countless years, the gold standard for martini drinkers was Noilly Prat.  It had a dry crispness that was unmatched in the category, and produced a refreshingly aromatic but bracingly lean drink.  In January of 2009 The Wall Street Journal announced the impending change to this classic formula.

This is when I began to amass a small but valuable stockpile of the stuff.

As it turns out the new stuff, while tasty as an aperitif, is a far cry from the original in a martini.  Plus, being one to hold a grudge, I refuse to support the company on principle.  I was on my very last bottle of my stockpile, which was opened prematurely and by accident, when I stumbled on something interesting.

I’ve been hunting local wine and spirits shops for the Dolin dry vermouth, which seems to have filled the vacuum left by the departure of Noilly Prat’s classic formula from the marketplace.  I know that I could order it online or have any shop place a special order for me.  But that’s not the point.  I want to suss out the wine shop that has the good taste to keep this special bottle in stock, and give them my vermouth business (and possibly more).

Anyhow, while delving the shelves at a small shop in outer Guilderland, I came across three dusty old half bottles of the old original Noilly Prat!

I bought them all.  That part wasn’t painful.
The painful part is that now I have hope there are more out there.

I hesitate to even write that, lest I unleash a torrent of searchers combing the sketchy liquor stores of small towns and hamlets throughout the northeast.  But the next day I went to two stores and left each one emptyhanded, hopelessly looking for something that doesn’t exist.  I don’t think it will take long to realize this is a dumb new hobby.

So now I have those three bottles.  It occurred to me briefly that perhaps I might be able to fetch an astronomical sum for one of them.  After all, martini drinkers don’t like change.  And certainly some of them must be thirsty for their favorite vermouth of yesteryear.

But $50 or even $100, which would be an astronomical sum for something that originally retailed for around $5, would not be enough to get me to part with one of my few precious bottles.  Even if the draconian laws of New York permitted me to make such an exchange, which they don’t.

I’m just glad that the wine store didn’t mark up their last remaining bottles to such fiendishly high levels.

The hunt continues for a local retailer that carries Dolin.  But I’m also going to be on the lookout for any last errant bottles of the old Noilly Prat that somehow have eluded all the dry martini drinkers out there.  Surely the three I picked up can’t be the last three in existence.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrew permalink
    October 4, 2010 6:26 pm

    How would one differentiate a new bottle from and old bottle? I travel to some hole in the wall towns that have liquor stores, and will now be on the look out.

  2. AddiesDad permalink
    January 23, 2011 5:13 pm

    I have successfully located a Capital District liquor store that stocks Dolin. However, it may be even harder to find now as “Taunton’s Fine Cooking” magazine this month did a small write-up about vermouth, and extoled the virtues of Dolin.

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