Archive for the ‘Vermouth’ Category

April 10th, 2007

Italian Greyhound

Punt e MesMy friend Al Capone, proprietor of Capone Foods in Somerville (and the soon-to-open Capone Foods Cambridge on north Mass Ave.), is known to begin a night out with the classic aperitivo Punt e Mes and soda. Punt e Mes is an Italian vermouth called a “quinquina” because quinine, a bitter bark, is said to be among the many botanicals providing the wine’s color and flavor. At first sip, it has the rich, mellow sweetness you get with standard Italian vermouth, but then it reveals its own distinctive layers of flavor, finishing with that medicinal kick.

“Its name (‘point and a half’) in the dialect of Turin, came from the day when an absent-minded stock exchange agent called out the trading floor term in old man Antonio Carpano’s bar, asking for a vermouth with a half-dose of bitters,” according to That day was in the late 1800s, so needless to say the recipe caught on.

Now, in the early 21st century, with more and more people on the hunt for “forgotton” spirits, a lot more Boston bars are carrying Punt e Mes and other aperitifs like Lillet (Blanc and Rouge) and Dubonnet. Recently, I urged Al to switch up his usual Punt e Mes and soda, just once, for an Italian Greyhound: half fresh grapefruit juice and half Punt e Mes on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass with a salted rim. (A standard Greyhound is vodka and grapefruit.) Wow, talk about layers of flavor — and in a drink that doesn’t bonk you over the head with alcoholic strength. No. 9 Park introduced me to this heavenly cocktail, but I have to credit Scott Holliday, the former bar manager of Chez Henri, with first making me aware of the Punt e Mes and grapefruit combo (minus the salt). I have to admit that I tried making it at home once with Tropicana Grapefruit Juice, but it just didn’t work. You gotta go with the fresh fruit.

Oh, and check out the groovy Punt e Mes website. It’s mostly in Italian, but its tagline, written in a “Laugh In” font, says that “Punt e Mes is back,” and each page sports its own funky-lounge music clip and the mashup phrase “L’Appuntamento Yes.”

Posted in Cocktails, Vermouth | 5 Comments »

March 15th, 2007

El Presidente

Maine-based journalist Wayne Curtis is an understated and witty writer who can tell a solid yarn about a cocktail’s history. He wrote this article, about “tracking a lost Cuban cocktail to its lair,” for Lost magazine. Here’s the recipe for El Presidente, verbatim from the article:

Over ice in a tall mixing glass, pour:

1-1/2 oz. rum
3/4 oz. curacao
3/4 oz. dry vermouth
1/2 tsp of grenadine

Stir well with ice for three or four minutes, then strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel twist.

Posted in Booze in the news, Cocktails, Rum, Vermouth | 5 Comments »

March 6th, 2007

The Saratoga

When Esquire drinks writer David Wondrich made a guest appearance behind the bar at Eastern Standard a couple of weeks ago, he mixed a drink I’d never had before: the Saratoga. Equal parts cognac, rye and sweet vermouth, the Saratoga is one of those cocktails that flies in the face of the number-one rule you were taught during your formative drinking years: do not mix your spirits. Cognac and rye? Mixed together in the same glass? Run and hide!

No, don’t. Try it. It’s one of those drinks whose seemingly simple ingredients and proportions form something eye-openingly new. Here’s the recipe, along with the brands of liquor Wondrich used that evening. Note: he colored outside the lines with the bitters he used — a Peruvian brand that Eastern Standard happened to have lying around. They were a bit funky.

Saratoga Cocktail
1 oz cognac (Hine)
1 oz rye (Rittenhouse 100-Proof)
1 oz sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi)
2 dashes Angostura bitters or other aromatic bitters, such as Fee’s Old-Fashioned
Stir well with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist a lemon peel over the top.

If you order this in a bar, be sure to specify that it’s the above version you want. There are several other cocktails named Saratoga, and they tend to involve maraschino liqueur and/or pineapple syrup.

Posted in Brandy, Cocktails, Vermouth, Whiskey | 1 Comment »

November 5th, 2006

Gin and It

Gin and ItExperimentation can be a tough thing to do at a neighborhood bar, but Jess Willis, the general manager of the Independent (75 Union Sq. Somerville), has boldly ventured backward in time to create the Indo’s current cocktail menu. She put the Fitzgerald, the Brandy Alexander and the Algonquin on there. Then she dug deep into the vault and dusted off the Gin and It. Praise the lord.

This is one weird cocktail by the standards of the contemporary world, where anyone who orders a Martini expects a mixture of about 50 parts gin or vodka to one part dry (white) vermouth. Well, get this: the Gin and It calls for sweet (red) vermouth, and lots of it. (Vermouth is red or white wine flavored with herbs and spices, lightly fortified with grain neutral spirit and, in the case of red vermouth, lightly sweetened.) The recipe in Dale DeGroff’s book The Craft of the Cocktail consists of equal parts (1.5 ounces each) gin and sweet vermouth, plus a dash of Angostura bitters and an orange peel. DeGroff explains: “The Gin and It was actually ordered in the Hoffman House and other New York bars of the 1880s and ’90s, simply as a Sweet Martini, and later as a Gin and Italian. During Prohibition, Gin and Italian was shortened to Gin and It.”

A brief web search turned up recipes for the drink varying from the half-and-half version above to two parts gin, one part sweet (Italian) vermouth. But Jess decided to trick her version out with three parts vermouth to one part gin. Eeewww, you’re saying. That’s because vermouth has unfairly come to be viewed as a necessary evil to be administered only by the nano-liter so that people can claim they’re drinking, say, a Manhattan instead of a chilled whiskey with a cherry. The fact is, without vermouth, the “cocktail” would not exist. It’s an ingredient as essential to the pantheon of mixed drinks as bitters and spirits. The Indo’s Gin and It, which also benefits from a dash of orange bitters, is tasty proof of this. Check it out for $8.

Posted in Boston bars, Cocktails, Gin, Vermouth | No Comments »

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