On vermouth

September 4, 2008

So Wednesday is my training day at work – we alternate sessions between spirits and liqueurs, and wine. It was my last seminar on spirits with one of my groups and we were doing cocktail history. I was talking about the development of the cocktail through the ages while making drinks typical of each period for the guys to try.

First up, I decided to make a Martinez as an example of a pre-Prohibition cocktail. So, I start with my spiel about how drinks were different back then: for one, vermouth was way more popular than it is now.

“Vermouth?” asks one of the group.
“Yup,” I say, and before I can continue, she makes a face like I’d answered by saying “Yeah, so your dog? It died.”

This, of course, sparks five minutes of everybody saying they don’t like vermouth, only old people drink it, so on. And then I remember a conversation with my restaurant manager a couple of days ago, when he’d said that when you first start making cocktails, everything gets berries in it. Strawberries, raspberries, whatever. No recipe is complete without a berry component. And then I’d said “it’s like there’s an 18 month trial before you’re allowed to use vermouth.”

What is it about vermouth that the kids don’t like? I suspect that it takes a while to get your head around the more complex flavour as an ingredient in your own recipes. But, fortunately, they liked the Martinez. Which is a start.

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