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Sunday Serendipity
My Favorite Vermouth—The Perfect Manhattan

By Stephen Eliot

I never gave all that much thought to Vermouth. It was not something to talk about the way we do wine. There was white Vermouth and red Vermouth, dry and sweet respectively, and I kept a bottle of each around, usually opened for too long, for making the occasional Manhattan or Martini. Once in a while I might hear a quick, half-hearted defense of the French or Italian version being the best, but Vermouth was never something that remotely piqued interest. Then, I met Carpano Antica Formula.

Piedmontese distiller, Antonio Benedetto Carpano is generally credited with inventing Vermouth in the late Eighteenth Century. The story goes that he was particularly passionate about the poetry of Goethe and so named his new concoction of herb- and wormwood-infused fortified wine after the German word for the latter, “wermut”. Over the next fifty or so years companies like Cinzano, Martini & Rossi and Noilly Pratt began making Vermouth and are still the best known names. It is, however, Carpano to which I would pay tribute today.

Carpano Antica Formula is an intensely flavored red Vermouth said to be based on Signor Carpano’s original recipe, and it is a bonafide eye-opener, if like me, you have considered Vermouths to be pretty much all the same…if you considered them at all. Very full-bodied, moderately sweet and amazingly complex with a pronounced bitter edge, it can claim credit for making me a late-to-arrive devotee of the classic Manhattan Cocktail. Mix it in a one-to-three ratio with a high-quality Bourbon or Rye Whiskey, the “one” part being Vermouth, along with a few drops of artisanal bitters (the Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged version if it can be found) for a revelatory reworking of the drink.

One final bit of advice on the topic of Vermouth; it would be well to remember that Vermouth is at its heart wine, and it will not last forever once opened. Refrigeration is a must once a new bottle is started, and even then you should not expect more than a few weeks of viable use. I have found that portioning newly opened Vermouth into several half-bottles and immediately corking them after a quick spray of Private Preserve will extend viability by a couple of months. This is particularly helpful in the case of Carpano Antica Formula as it is sold only larger one-liter bottles, and there is, after all, only so many perfect Manhattans one can drink.


I Will Take Manhattan
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:2/13/2011 1:51:06 PM

On occasion.

But, it was not before I discovered the joys of a good rye-based Manhattan and then Steve introduced me to Carpano Antica that I really became a fan.

Michters' Rye is a fave, but also Michters' American Whisky, which may be corn-based, but does not taste as sweet as Bourbon.

I also have to give a shoutout to Vya, a vermouth made by dessert-wine specialist Andy Quady. It is a brighter, more floral, fruity type of red vermouth and thus makesa lighter Manhattan, especially if one uses a smooth Bourbon like Makers Mark or Woodford Reserve.

Love it
by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:2/14/2011 10:39:21 AM

I too am a fan of the Carpano and find that the bottle while large does not last long enough for it to become oxidized. I adore it with a twist of lemon over ice either before or after a meal. Truly delicious stuff....

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