by Jade Helm | Photo © Interrobang
Vermouth may play a minor role in your beverage repertoire, if it plays a part at all. Most picture a dusty bottle opened only for select cocktails.
Yet, in the creative hands of Northwest artisans, the dust will never have time to settle. As cocktail ingredients, these hand-crafted vermouths meet the country’s growing demand for quality. Beyond the role of minor supporting actor, vermouth is taking its place as the opening act, served as an aperitif to set the tone for a refined dining experience.
What is Vermouth?
Vermouth production began centuries ago in Europe as a way to preserve botanicals reputed to aid in digestion. The recipe starts with a base wine, to which more alcohol (usually brandy) is added. To this fortified wine is added combinations of herbs, botanicals and spices. Within those steps lie a multitude of opportunities to create a signature flavor experience.
The Northwest is a front runner in the nation’s craft vermouth production. Serve one of these at your next gathering.
Ransom Spirits, ransomspirits.com
Ransom’s Dry Vermouth, from Tad Seestedt, is intended to remind people of the aromas of a Willamette Valley meadow. Gewurztraminer, chardonnay, riesling and muscat meet 16 botanicals —all listed on the label. It smells like sun-brewed tea and tangerine punch, green cardamom, star anise, chamomile and the caramelized flavor of raw sugar.
Ransom’s Sweet Vermouth has a woody quality on the nose due to sassafras and other mysterious bark, cocoa and coffee.
Imbue Cellars, imbuecellars.com
Imbue’s Bittersweet Vermouth (both herbaceous and sweet) maintains the spicy flavors of the Oregon pinot gris base and is intended to capture additional flavors of the Pacific Northwest. Imbue complemented the lemon peel and sour apple flavors of pinot gris with clove and orange. “Add juniper, and chamomile and this screams Washington apple and pine forest,” says co-owner Neil Kopplin.
Imbue’s slightly sweet, semillon-based Petal & Thorn smells of cinnamon, roses and tangerine and tastes of sassafras, spice, floral and citrus.
Interrobang (?!) is the punctuation mark after a rhetorical question and the vermouth creation of Karl Weichold.
Interrobang’s White Vermouth is off-dry and herbaceous with flavors of tarragon, grapefruit pith and Earl Grey tea.
The Sweet Red Vermouth smells like spice and pine and has a cola quality plus flavors of coconut and cherry.
Interrobang is slated for expansion by new owner Carr Biggerstaff who says the question now is “What’s next?!” Indeed…
Hammer & Tongs, htvermouth.com
Ever wondered about the taste of frankincense and myrrh? They are key ingredients in Hammer & Tongs Sac’ Resine made by Patrick Taylor. Mostly dry, this bright, spicy vermouth tastes of licorice and grapefruit peel.
L’Afrique, made with a syrah base, smells of coffee grounds, moist rich soil, and turmeric. It presents like a sophisticated cola on the palate.
Cana’s Feast Winery, canasfeastwinery.com
Hammer & Tong’s Taylor also produces Chinato d’Erbetti (nebbiolo-based) for Cana’s Feast. Vanilla, cinnamon, lavender, black pepper—it smells like Christmas potpourri.
Harris Bridge Vineyard, harrisbridgevineyard.com
At Harris Bridge Vineyard, vermouth begins life as an ice style dessert wine, yet is not overwhelmingly sweet. An abbreviated list of botanicals allows the base wines to maintain center stage.
Finn tastes like pinot gris and Timber tastes like pinot noir—just with an added kick of unexpected flavors like fennel.
Brovo Spirits, brovospirits.com
Located in Woodinville, Washington, Brovo Spirits enlisted the help of five bartenders to develop recipes for their four vermouth styles based on Wahluke Slope AVA varietals. Merlot-based sweet Jammy is designed with a rye Manhattan in mind. The ingredients reflect Washington flavors—cherries, hibiscus, coffee bean, ginger, to name a few.
Witty was made to emulate a dry, herbaceous French-style vermouth. Also available are pinot gris based Pretty and pinot noir based Pink.
Legend Cellars, legendcellars.com
Legend Cellars, on Washington’s Lake Chelan, produces Vincitore, an off-dry vermouth based on cabernet franc with lavender, citrus and exotic spices. Legend Cellars also offers Ladies First semi-sweet vermouth based on gewürztraminer, riesling and viognier.