Where have all the cocktails gone? Long time passing.
Where have all the cocktails gone? Long time ago.
I think I recall a time when I faithfully wrote about cocktails once a week. Whatever happened to that? Well, part of it is that over the last couple of months I largely stopped drinking as cocktails didn’t quite jibe with my medication.
Anyhow, it’s January and I haven’t even transitioned the bar from fall to winter. Really, this year I may not even make the attempt. The bar is cluttered with far too many mostly empty bottles to bring anything new into the house, including some of the Peach Jack from summer and a bunch of the Coal Yard (which I really enjoy) from fall.
This notion of hanging onto bottles is one I want to talk about further. I totally get the impulse. We still have some Chartreuse in a bottle that’s at least five years old. But that’s a hearty spirit and some have even said that it’s a rare example of something that ages well in the bottle.
Vermouth, on the other hand, isn’t quite as tough.
I don’t want to single anybody out on this one. Especially since I’m guilty of doing this myself. But if you have an open bottle of vermouth that’s been sitting out on a counter, or, even worse, someplace warm like over the refrigerator, we need to talk.
Vermouth is different from the other items in your bar. It’s not a base spirit. At its heart vermouth is a wine. And it should be treated like a wine. Sure, it’s fortified which helps to preserve it a little. But once it has been opened, it fades quickly. Refrigeration helps delay the inevitable. Still one should not be holding onto open bottles indefinitely.
Fortunately, vermouth is commonly available in 375ml bottles. It’s hard to buy these. I know, because I’m a cheap bastard. For just a couple bucks more you can get twice as much. And for about another buck on top of that, you can get a full liter of delicious aromatic fortified wine.
And I do think it’s delicious. I’ll drink vermouth on the rocks with a twist for a simple aperitif, or vermouth with seltzer as a refreshing cooler. Manhattans are also our house cocktail. But even with all of these uses for sweet vermouth, it takes us well over a month to drain a liter bottle.
That’s far too long.
We would be better served buying vermouth in smaller quantities and replenishing it more often. Even buying a couple of small bottles at a time, lest I was concerned about adding more frequent trips to the liquor store.
It kind of breaks my heart when I see large bottles of vermouth that look like they have been sitting around for years. Because I know that one day they will be put into service, and that at best the results will be a mere shadow of what they could have been.
The killer part is that even really good vermouth isn’t that expensive, so it’s not like holding on to the last few ounces of some rare and precious single malt scotch.
I’m a big fan of the Martini and Rossi sweet vermouth. Dolin is the dry vermouth of choice for gin based cocktails now that Noilly Prat changed its formulation (a grudge I still hold). I will sometimes select a fruitier dry vermouth for cooking. But that’s a whole different story.
There are more expensive vermouths out there, but these are solid selections. Some of the cheapest brands are best avoided. My rule of thumb is that if you don’t like drinking it on its own, it shouldn’t be used in your cocktail.
But I digress.
Let’s take the new year to do a little house cleaning. If you are one of the vermouth hoarders out there, just throw away your old bottle. Do it now, or as soon as you get home. Then go out this weekend and buy a new 375ml bottle of something decent. Maybe you make that two, so you have a backup should you run out.
Your next Manhattan will thank you for it.