The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2016

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50  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2016 N egroni week came and went in June, and bars all over the country clamored to create and impress with their own individual and persuasive combination of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. As the recipe states, Campari is the backbone of the classic Negroni. Sweet vermouth, however, has seen ups and downs in the American market, and never has it seen an "up" quite like its current situation led by the high quality of Carpano vermouth. In particular, Carpano's Antica Formula and Punt e Mes have taken the United States by storm as they celebrate 230 years of tradition. In years long past, a bartender was forced to insert an inferior and tasteless vermouth into a perfect combination of his or her favorite gin and Campari. Not so any longer. Vermouth has recently and enthusias- tically experienced a renaissance in the American bar scene. "I love vermouth," says William Perbellini, Bar Manager at Bar Toscana in the upscale Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Behind the bar, Perbellini often reaches for the Carpano vermouth portfolio, which includes Antica Formula, Punt e Mes, Carpano Bianco and Carpano Dry. His strong feelings about fortified wines come from personal experience: "Vermouth is what I drink; it's a cocktail in itself," he says. Born in Verona, Italy, Perbellini was bartending at the famed Hotel Cipriani in Venice just before moving to Los Angeles in 2009 specifically to open Bar Toscana on San Vicente Boulevard. Beyond the Negroni, Perbellini has a cocktail that's close to his heart and frequently in his glass. "The Americano is my favorite drink in the world. It's what I drink before dinner with my wife," he states with the yearning of a man wondering whether it's dinnertime yet. The Americano is a gin-less iteration of the aforementioned classic whose ingredients include Campari, sweet vermouth and soda. As for the vermouth element, Perbellini has a clear front-runner: "Punt e Mes has become my favorite in an Americano. It's a little more bitter, has more toffee, a little bit of peppermint, and it makes the Americano more spicy." According to Perbellini, the Americano is enjoyed significantly more frequently than the Negroni in the overseas market. As evi- denced by our desire to make and drink the biggest, boldest IPAs and the juiciest, richest Cabernet Sauvignons, Americans have become accustomed to high-gravity libations. Europeans, however, have a longevity in their approach to drinking, hence the Americano. "It's a more accessible, more drinkable drink," he insists. Bars across the country have adopted what many call the "Bartender's Choice" as a mainstay of their cocktail lists. As a general rule, the guest is asked to simply request his or her spirit of choice, and the bartender creates whatever cocktail comes to mind. In Perbellini's mind, however, that idea is backwards. "I'm a very garden-oriented person," he says. At Bar Toscana, guests select their produce of choice from the cornucopia of seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs placed purposefully upon the bartop. And then, using the spirit of his choice, Perbellini whips up a dazzling cocktail. "I'm not limited to the spirit," he says. Many of his PHOTO: LEO RIVAS Italian in Nature At Bar Toscana in Brentwood, California, Bar Manager William Perbellini often reaches for Carpano vermouths, which include Antica Formula, Punt e Mes, Carpano Bianco and Carpano Dry. CARPANO VERMOUTHS CAPTIVATE AMERICAN PALATES by Matt Jackson / photos by Leo Rivas PHOTO: LEO RIVAS

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