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Archive for the ‘French Vermouth’ Category

by Pink Lady

The LUPEC Boston column in this week’s issue of the Weekly Dig stars two spirits that have become less and less vogue in the age of the extra extra dry, extra extra dirty vodka martini: gin and vermouth. I will save discussion of the “original” martini recipe (and modern bastardizations thereof) for a later date. For now, let’s get to know these two glorious spirits a little better. They are key ingredients in a good many endangered cocktails, as LUPEC Boston member and Drinkboston founder Barbara West explains beautifully here. To coax these classics back from beyond the grave you will need to cozy up to both.

So, vermouth: qu’est-ce que c’est?

It’s simply fortified wine aromatized with herbs and spices. As the story goes, vermouth was invented in Italy in the 1780s by Anthony Carpano — allegedly it was grandma’s recipe — and the name is derived from the German term for key ingredient wormwood (“Wermuth“). Vermouth herb & spice blends are as protected and proprietary as recipes for gin botanicals, and can contain something on the order of 40 – 50 ingredients. Carpano’s original vermouth was sweet and red; about a generation later, French herbalist Joseph Noilly invented a dry vermouth based on the delicate, dry white wines and local plants of his region, and also made with wormwood (which is also a key ingredient in Absinthe; more info on that in next week’s column.)

Vermouth was originally referred to according to its country of origin, especially in old cocktail books. Italian vermouth references the sweet stuff and French vermouth references dry. Grazie, Antonio! Merci, Joseph!

Many Americans fear vermouth in this modern age of drinking, as The Spirit World‘s post on the topic articulates. Perhaps your first encounter was with vermouth that had gone stale for lack of use in your parent’s liquor cabinet? Lesson learned, you shouldn’t have been dipping into their stash while they were out of town, anyway. In any event, I implore you to give vermouth another try as a grown up. It’s cheap enough to buy a few bottles, taste and compare, and discover on your own what you like best — and what works best in different cocktail recipes. Married…with Dinner conducted a vermouth-by-vermouth in home taste test, the results of which are very enlightening.

My most recent vermouth “a-ha!” moment came with the purchase of a bottle each of Extra Dry and Sweet Vya at Brix in the South End. It’s expensive for sure, retailing for $25 whereas other bottles in the category hover around $7 – $10, but Vya is a truly worth it investment, especially if you can find a way to write off alcohol purchases. Vya Extra Dry is light, herbaceous, and melon-y; Vya Sweet is warm, complex, citrus-y and spicy — it reminds me of sipping my Swedish Pop-pop’s glug by the fire on a snowy New Year’s Eve in Vermont.

And for you gin-shy folks…

I actually did have a gin-cident circa my freshman year of college. I do not speak of what ensued that night and I didn’t touch the juniper scented stuff for nearly a decade thereafter. Then I fell in love with classic cocktails and it was only a matter of time before my vodka days were numbered. If I can do it, you can too.

What really brought me back was the gin tasting we did at our very first LUPEC meeting in February 2007. It was an aggressive re-entry but it got me over the initial hump, and also taught me a very important lesson: not all gins are created equal. I found Hendrick’s, with its crisp, clean flavors and fresh cucumber notes t be a great gateway gin. I also like the then locally unavailable Blue Coat Gin that a friend had smuggled across state lines for our hostess from the “City of Brotherly Love.” I also learned as we tasted each gin side-by-side that it is the botanical blend of Tanqueray that my mind and palate equate with my gincident, not gin or it’s juniper flavors. Et voila, I am now officially a gin girl.

I’m sure you’ve tried Absolut Citron or Grey Goose Orange; gin is just a few steps away from those flavored neutral grain spirits. Here are a few starter cocktails to get you going:

THE PEGU CUB
So refreshing & delicious, this is the one that REALLY brought me back to gin, at Taste of the South End last year. I had about seventeen of these.
1.5 oz Plymouth Gin
.5 oz Orange Curacao
.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Orange Bitters

BLUE SKIES
Tried this again recently at our April ’08 meeting at Barbara West’s house — so delicious!
1 oz Applejack
1 oz Gin
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
1 or dashes grenadine
Shake with cracked ice and strain into your favorite vintage cocktail glass!

THE FRENCH 75
What better way to sneak gin into the glass of an unsuspecting gin-phobe? By adding lemon, sugar, and champagne…
2 oz Gin
1 oz fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar or 1 tsp simple syrup
Champagne

Cin cin!

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by MiMi

Protest singer, jazz vocalist, pianist, temperamental diva and American civil rights heroine, Nina Simone remains one of the most important musicians in American music history.

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21 in 1933, Simone started playing the piano at the age of four, and made her concert debut when she was just ten years old. During her recital, her parents were moved to the back of the hall to make room for white people. She refused to play until they were brought back to the front.

She wanted to be the first black concert pianist and was one of the first black women to be classically trained at Julliard. She started playing jazz and pop music in clubs in the mid-1950’s while at Julliard to supplement her income, changing her name to Nina Simone, possibly to protect her classical standing. She never intended to sing, but started when a club manager told her she would lose her job if she didn’t. She became instantly popular, and was known for her inventive style that incorporated jazz, Bach, pop, soul, folk, gospel, and show tunes.

She had a majestic onstage presence, and was known for her love/hate relationship with the audience. She sang with such raw power and soul; if you didn’t like it, you could get out.
She paid great attention to the musical expression of emotions, and could range from intense highs to melancholy tragedy in a single concert or album. She was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in the sixties, but it was kept secret until after she died.

Simone recorded over forty albums over the course of her life, each progressing in artistic control over the next one. She becomes more and more vocal about racial prejudice over the years; after 1964 the civil rights message became standard in her recording repertoire.
She recorded songs such “Mississippi Goddam” – her response to the bombing of a church that killed four black children and covered “Strange Fruit” – Billie Holiday’s anthem about lynchings of black men in the south. After Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered she sang “Why? The King of Love is Dead.” She turned Lorraine Hansberry’s play “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” into a civil rights song. This song became the “National Anthem of Black America.”

When you raise a glass to toast the weekend, let’s toss one back for the late, great Nina Simone, whose birthday was yesterday and whose legacy lives on in song!

Chorus Lady
Juice of 1/4 orange
1/3 Gin

1/3 French Vermouth

1/3 Italian Vermouth

Shake well and strain into a medium glass, add slice of orange and a cherry.

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