Sunday, January 16, 2011

What Makes A Cocktail Great?

To me, one mark of a great cocktail is that you almost can't identify the ingredients because it is so much its own thing. A cocktail can be good without that quality, but it's fun when you find it.

Noilly Pratt is my usual vermouth. About all I use it for is manhattans. I like Punt e Mes for a change of pace, but now I have two vermouths I rarely use. What else to do with them?

Recently I saw A. J. Rathbun's Punt e Mes highball. It's one part Punt and two parts ginger ale on the rocks. (I used Vernor's.) The drink is pretty great. Only two ingredients and it doesn't taste like either one of them. I'll have to try it with the Noilly.

12 comments:

sku said...

Hey Chuck, have you tried Carpano Antica? It's the only Vermouth I can drink straight and enjoy.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Just what I need, a third vermouth.

Cheryl Lins said...

Well there's also Vya out of California and Dolin's Rouge (they make a blanc as well). So now you could have five vermouths. :-)

btw store vermouth in the fridge after opening to minimize oxidation. After all, it is wine, and if you don't use it often it will go vinegary on you.

Ethan Imbibe said...

Hey Chuck, Carpano Antica is a fantastic vermouth which I highly recommend. The reality is vermouth for the most part especially in Europe is just drank on its own or with just a few other things (seltzer, juice, etc). A truly good cocktail is like you said, a "balance" of all ingredients. Also consume your vermouth fast and keep it chilled once open, because like wine it goes bad fast. Drink up and Cheers!

sam k said...

Vernor's is itself a distinctive ingredient. We don't seem to have it around PA anymore. Twenty-five years or so back, I recall it being labeled "Aged in Wood," though in the current competitive, corporate-driven soda marketplace I can't imagine they still take the time and effort to do that.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Update: still plenty of Noilly on-hand, because it's not very good with ginger ale. But now I'm almost out of Punt e Mes. Am I ready for Campari?

Doug Ford said...

Red Hook is a fine choice if you're looking to use up your Punt e Mes, and familiar flavors to manhattan drinkers.

Ethan Imbibe said...

If you are ready for Campari and not sure you'll like it, you should try something like an Americano cocktail first (equal parts Campari, Sweet (red) vermouth, and soda water. Campari is not a vermouth it is actually... kind of a digestif bitter (not to be confused with cocktail bitters). Many people do not like it.

If after trying Campari and you feel you like it, try a Boulevardier cocktail which is equal parts bourbon, Campari, and Sweet (red) vermouth.

For you being a bourbon fan you may want to use more bourbon than Campari such as 1 1/2 oz bourbon to both 3/4 oz vermouth and Campari for a Boulevardier. I do think equal amounts of each make it too Campari dominant.

That's my Campari tip.

Ethan Imbibe said...

Ack I meant "aperitif" Aperitivo.. not digestif.

Doug Ford said...

If you find that you want to keep working with Campari, then Ethan's idea of doubling up the whiskey is a good one. One of my favorite Campari drinks is the 1794, a whiskied-up Boulevarier, exactly as Ethan describes.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Who knew my interest in these fortified wines would spark so much comment? As it stands, I haven't tried Campari yet but did pick up a bottle of Dubonnet (and another bottle of Punt e Mes), so I'm trying another variation on the theme and, as a bonus, won't get malaria.

Jeff Renner said...

I agree about the Carpano. An amazing leap above other sweet vermouths. I think that Carpano invented vermouth several centuries ago. I've had it only in California. Great on the rocks and makes a wonderful manhattan.

I don't like the new, "original" Noilly Prat for martinis. Too sweet.

My long time favorite brand for both sweet and dry is Boissiere. The sweet is, appropriately, made in Italy, despite the French name, and the dry in France. More complex than others. Somewhat more expensive than most as well, but not nearly as much as Carpano.