The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2014

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28  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2014 WHAT WE'RE DRINKING I n the age of small batch bourbon and local gins, ver- mouth does not exactly inspire the type of enthusiastic praise that other spirits do. But maybe it should. Just as everything old becomes new again, so it goes with the current Renaissance of Vermouth. Although it has been relegated to being a supporting player in most 20th-century cocktails, vermouth started its life as a stand-alone beverage. Aromatized wines, or wines to which herbs and other botanicals are added, were developed in the Alpine territories of Europe in the late 1600s and early 1700s, both to enhance the flavor of local wines for drinking and for medicinal purposes. Wormwood was a common ingredient and was believed to aid in stimulating digestion. This was said to "open" the digestive system, or aperire in Latin, giving rise to the term "aperitif" to refer to these aromatized wines as a drink one would have before eating. In order to preserve these tonics, a small amount of neutral grape distillate would be added, fortifying the wines to a higher percent- age of alcohol, but usually no higher than 20 percent. In 1786, in the Piedmontese Italian city of Torino (Turin in English), Antonio Benedetto Carpano created what is generally considered to be the first true commercial vermouth. Inspired by the aromatized wines of Germany, he named his new beverage "vermouth" after the German word for wormwood, wermut. He used a local white wine base, to which he added a boiled reduction of fruit, herbs and spices. He used a light hand with the fortification. The result was a slightly sweet, slightly bitter, reddish-amber concoction. Selling it through his tavern in Torino's Piazza Castello, the vermouth was an almost instant success, giving rise to many other similar products that hoped to mirror Carpano's popularity. Carpano's recipe became so popular, that during the mid-to-late 1800s, his tavern had to stay open 24 hours a day to meet the demand for this tasty beverage. Often, the barman might alter the flavor with a few drops of bitters or vanilla, creating some of the first vermouth cocktails. Even today, many modern vermouth brands can trace their origin to the cradle of Torino and the Carpano brand family, including Cinzano, Martini & Rossi Versed on Vermouth? THE HISTORIC CARPANO BRAND UPDATES FOR THE 21ST CENTURY by David D. Denton, CWE, CSS, IBWE, Certified Wine Educator / photos by Timothy Murray

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