We are enthralled by artisans. And we love booze. And boozy cocktails. And not so boozy cocktails. And we think Vermouth is gorgeous.
We also suspect that you are bored with the sound of our voice, so are proud to deliver a vermouth treatise from Marco The Magnificent.
We give you our first independent voice, Marco Zappia partner at Bittercube, and King of Vermouth. Including recipes, and cocktails. Salute. Cento di quest giorni!
The first time I remember tasting vermouth, we were stumbling from Trastevere through Old City searching for a bar called the Jerry Thomas Project. It was proving extremely difficult. The streets were eerily empty that evening, and the few people we summoned for directions seemed puzzled by our request. It didn’t particularly matter, Rome has a way of making time lost seem not all that important in the first place. We walked across cobblestone streets, through plazas, and talked about what we wanted to become.
Maria really wanted to work with the bears. She was spitting out facts as fast as a Google search about different species, from the unique traits of the marsican, to the average weight of the American grizzly, or how deep the polar bear could dive. I laughed listening to her, she was so happy, a glow in her eyes as she waxed poetically about the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, a place she’d never been. Maria abruptly punched me in the ribs, admonishing me, trying to keep a straight face. And then, miraculously, we arrived. I tried to explain to the large bouncer in a poor fitting suit that I didn’t feel safe.
He must have had a sense of humor, because I probably wouldn’t have let us in.
It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust as we slunk into a delicious sofa. The bar was beautiful. As we settled in and my ribs stopped throbbing, a comically appropriate dressed bartender popped a squat next to us as we ordered libations. He could tell I was American from the accent, and switched to English to save me from embarrassing myself. Our trip was not in vain. I was now the one with glowing eyes, as we talked amari, the futurists, and Italian hospitality. He tilted his head slyly, looked behind his back and swooned “I want to show you something.”
We sauntered to a musty back room. Floor to ceiling, unmarked bottles threatened to swallow us. It was very quiet. Our new friend whispered, “this is vermouth” in a tone that would make a causal observer think he was speaking of the Holy Ghost.
That night I truly tasted vermouth.
Half a decade later, we opened a gin bar, homage to the perfection that is the martini, and those bottles haunt me because I won’t be able to make (or use) that vermouth. But it’s ok, because the pursuit of that moment is all that is really important.
In an era where cocktail bars make everything, it is odd that more bars aren’t making vermouth. It almost seems like the golden calf that bartenders don’t touch out of respect. Which I get. I imagine Antonio Carpano’s ghost appearing whenever finalizing a batch, exclaiming that we’re doing it wrong.
I then remind myself that vermouth is only aromatized & fortified wine. That’s it. It’s very similar to the air of mystery that lies behind bitters. Bitters are liquid spice. That’s it.
It’s a very liberating feeling.
In the same manner that Italian bartenders took the American cocktail and made it perfectly Italian, we as a community should acquire the craft of vermouth production out of respect and courtesy. Since prohibition, how many bottles of vermouth lay on the back bar collecting dust, de-naturing, and spoiling negronis? How many individuals reach for an over-priced bottle of whiskey, and with the same hand grope for masquerading swill when making manhattans? Where’s Antonio’s apparition when we need him?
In the spirit of the Futurists insistence on using Italian ingredients in cocktail production, we use American brandy & wine to make our vermouth. Here is base recipe and basic instructions on production. Undoubtedly, someone is going to say that this isn’t how you produce Italian vermouth. They’re right. We’re making vermouth the American way, by deconstructing the process, re-examining the production, and streamlining it.
Here you go, add more ingredients, change the ratios, and attack it at every angle. Have fun with it. For fucks sake, it’s just a martini.
Step 1: A Bitter Base
Select your bittering agents. These are going to provide the foundation of your vermouth and will be the ship that anchors each additional ingredient and sails them forward towards flavor country. Additional thoughts would be Angelica root, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, et cetera.
.1g Gentian Root
.3g Orris Root
.3g Dandelion Root
Step 2: Citrus/Brightening Agents
Pick out your citrus and brightening agents. The fragrant oils from the citrus and various fruits will give your vermouth lift and will help vitalize your cocktail. We personally enjoy a blend of orange, lemon, and ginger but ingredients such as lime, strawberry, peach, and rhubarb are fun.
21g Fresh Orange Peels
16g Fresh Lemon Peels
9g Finely Chopped Ginger (skin on)
1g Vanilla Bean, Decorticated
Step 3: Herbs and Flowers
Add your dried herbs and flowers. This is the heart of the vermouth. They’re the sultry jazz. Pick botanicals that you enjoy to use in cooking or go regional. Tiki? Alllspice, hibiscus, cinnamon, ginger, and black peppercorn. East Asia? Five spice blend, maybe some coriander and jasmine.
2g Bay Leaf
1.5g Cubeb Peppercorn
Step 4: Combine, Strain, and Sweeten
Combine all of your ingredients with a 750ml bottle of Copper & Kings Un-Aged Brandy and let your creation sit for a week, shaking the contents daily. After a week goes by, strain through cheesecloth or coffee filter. We’ll call it the vermouth base in the below ratios.
Step 5: Ratios
8 Parts American White Wine of Choice
1 Part Simple (1:1)
1 Part Vermouth Base
Americano, Rosa, or Blanc
2 Parts American White Wine of Choice
½ Part Simple (1:1)
¼ Part Vermouth Base
1 ½ Part American White Wine of Choice
¼ Part Demerara (1:1)
¾ Part Burnt Sugar Syrup*
½ Part Vermouth Base
Step 6: Bottle Conditioning
Once we’ve finished our ratio, it’s important to let the liquids sit and homogenize. You’ll want around 200 microns of air, or half of the neck in a 750ml bottle. Just like a soup or a braise, it’s going to get better over time. We try to wait for the 3-week mark, but sometimes that isn’t an option. We’re thirsty. It’s delicious after a few days. We hope you think so too.
Here are some cocktails to try out with your new vermouth.
The Bombay Cocktail
1 ½ oz Copper & Kings American Craft Brandy
¾ oz Dry Vermouth
¾ oz Sweet Vermouth
1 Barspoon Dry Curacao
1 Barspoon Copper& Kings Citrus Absinthe
2 Dashes Bittercube Orange Bitters
Garnish: Lemon Peel, Expressed, & Discarded
Instruction: Stir, Strain, Garnish
½ oz Copper & Kings Immature
½ oz Red Bitter Apertivo
¾ oz White Chocolate Olive Brine Syrup*
1 oz Americano Vermouth
2 oz Prossecco
2 oz Seltzer
2 Dashes Bittercube Corazon Bitters
Garnish: Skewered Filthy Pimento Olive & Orange Slice
Instruction: Build in Glass Over Ice, Garnish
*White Chocolate Olive Brine Syrup
500g White Chocolate
8oz Olive Brine
24oz Tea Water Water (180 degrees)
32oz Granulated Sugar
Instruction: Bring brine up to a simmer. Kill Heat. Vitamix brine and chocolate together for several minutes. Kill Viamix. Combine with tea water. Whisk in sugar until fully homogenized. Deli. Refrigerate
Naked Ballerina #3
1 oz Copper & Kings Immature Brandy
1 oz Rosa Vermouth
¾ oz Lemon
⅓ oz Dry Curacao
¼ oz Simple (1:1)
2 Dashes Bittercube Jamaican #2 Bitters
Rinse: Copper & Kings Lavender Absinthe
Garnish: Edible Orchid
Instruction: Shake, Strain, Garnish
American Corpse Reviver #1
1 oz Copper & Kings American Craft Brandy
1 oz Copper & Kings American Apple Brandy
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: Orange Peel, Expressed, & Discarded
Instruction: Stir, Strain, Garnish