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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Vermouth

Cocktail of the Week: The Bronx

It’s National Martini Day, hurrah! But we’re doing something a little different: a popular Prohibition take on the King of Cocktails, it’s the Bronx! You really wouldn’t want to drink…

It’s National Martini Day, hurrah! But we’re doing something a little different: a popular Prohibition take on the King of Cocktails, it’s the Bronx!

You really wouldn’t want to drink a Martini during Prohibition unless you could get hold of some authentic imported gin which would have been very expensive. So instead you’d have to use a rough bathtub gin, which might be flavoured with turpentine or sulphuric acid (mmmm, tangy), with nothing to temper it except something labelled vermouth (very likely a mixture of grape must, sugar and more rough alcohol). No wonder cocktails with high sugar and fruit content became popular during those sad years. They would hide the taste of the alcohol.

Take the Bronx, for example. It was invented in 1906 at the Old Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York by a barman called Johnny Solon, but it came into its own when good liquor became scarce. Get hold of some orange juice, some “vermouth” and some alcohol that vaguely smelt of juniper, and you could make yourself a palatable cocktail. Especially if you served it really cold. The Bronx is basically a sweet Martini made with orange juice. No wonder the Bronx was the cocktail of the 1920s. It’s the sort of thing that could be made by the bucketful for your Gatsby-esque parties.

The Bronx

The Bronx, next to its better-known cousin, the Martini (photo credit: The Home Bar)

It’s rather gone out of fashion now. There’s a National Martini Day and a Negroni Week, but nobody designates time to enjoy the Bronx. Poor Bronx. Perhaps it’s because we now have good gin coming out of our ears. There’s no need to disguise the flavour. Then there’s the borough itself, which doesn’t have the glamour of Manhattan or the hip of Brooklyn. Plus it’s an easy cocktail to make badly with concentrated orange juice and cheap cooking vermouth. But if you use freshly squeezed orange juice, or my own favourite, blood orange juice, then it’s marvellous concoction. Then when choosing your booze, think orange. I’m using Brighton Gin which has orange peel as one of its botanicals, and two citrus-heavy vermouths, Martini Riserva Speciale Ambrato and Noilly Prat Extra Dry.

To turn a Bronx into a Queens, you swap the orange juice for pineapple juice, or in some recipes combine the two, or in others add a bit of lemon to the pineapple. Or you can add a few drops of Angostura bitters in which case it is called an Income Tax (who comes up with these names?). Anyway, enough variations, let’s make a Bronx:

50ml Brighton Gin
25ml Martini Riserva Speciale Ambrato
15ml Noilly Prat Orginal Dry
30ml freshly-squeezed orange juice
Dash of Fee Brothers orange bitters

Shake all the ingredients hard with lots of ice and strain into a cold Martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist and shake a wicked calf

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Cocktail of the Week: The Toasted Nut Boulevardier

This week we delve into the fascinating world of vermouth with a man who knows his artemisia absinthim from his artemisia pontica (they’re both types of wormwood), Jack Adair Bevan,…

This week we delve into the fascinating world of vermouth with a man who knows his artemisia absinthim from his artemisia pontica (they’re both types of wormwood), Jack Adair Bevan, and show you how to make a deliciously nutty bourbon and vermouth cocktail.

Jack Adair Bevan (what a great name BTW, it sounds like he should be played by a young Bruce Willis) hasn’t always been so keen on vermouth. In his new book, A Spirited Guide to Vermouth, he writes, “I shared most people’s perceptions of vermouth of ancient bottles that gathered dust in corners of drinks cabinets and kitchen cupboards with faded labels and bottle tops fused shut with crystallised sugar.” Yup, that’s my parents’ drinks cupboard. It was a Negroni drunk in Haus Bar (since closed) in Bristol that made him change his mind.

Bevan got the vermouth bug real bad: whereas you and I might just experiment with some different brands, Bevan went the whole hog and started making his own. In 2012 with the team at the restaurant where he worked, The Ethicurean just outside Bristol, he created a brand of vermouth called The Collector made with Italian wines and spirit distilled from Somerset cider apples. It became a cult hit among British bartenders.

Jack Adair Bevan

Jack Adair Bevan, looking nothing at all like a young Bruce Willis

When he left the restaurant, The Collector project finished, but Bevan’s vermouth fire is burning brighter than ever hence the book which has just been published. A Spirited Guide to Vermouth (Headline Home, £16.99) traces the long history of aromatised wine: the Romans were flavouring wines with bitter ingredients like wormwood (vermouth gets its name from the German word for wormwood, wermut). But vermouth really went global in the 19th century when it was commercialised in France and Italy by firms like Noilly Prat, Dolin, Cinzano and Martini. The book takes an in-depth look at production methods: in Martini the botanicals are steeped in neutral spirit before blending whereas at Noilly Prat they use wine.

Vermouth went into a decline in the 80s and 90s, but in the last six years things have picked up with increasing sales, small brands and new releases from the old guard. The vermouth world is now truly international. In the book, Bevan picks out some of his favourite labels; he even tells you how to make your own. His enthusiasm is so infectious that, you know what, I must just give it a try.  

“I regard making vermouth as an art form.” he writes, “It’s as close to cooking as the drinks world gets. It’s about a careful balancing of a huge array of contrasting herbs, roots and spices, wines and sweetness.” And indeed, there’s a great affinity between vermouth and food. I recall earlier this summer, near Barcelona, eating a dish of boquerones, anchovies in vinegar that would destroy a normal wine, but the Las Vermudas vermouth just sailed through, the sweetness and bitterness of the drink chiming with the acidity of the little fish.  

Best of all are the cocktail recipes; I can see A Spirited Guide to Vermouth becoming one of the most well-thumbed books in my collection alongside David A. Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. I am definitely going to try his version of the Gin and It, half gin, half vermouth, pre-mixed and served straight from the fridge into frozen sherry copitas with a little ice at the bottom.

Toasted Nut Boulevardier,

Toasted Nut Boulevardier, note very large ice cube

The cocktail I’ve chosen this week, however, requires a bit more preparation. To make a Toasted Nut Boulevardier, you need to steep your bourbon with nuts for four days. Bevan writes: “The flavour of toasted pecans and walnuts is rich, sweet and superb combined with bourbon. The flavour almost sits like another botanical or ingredient with the Martini Rubino.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Right, let’s get cracking.

35ml Toasted nut bourbon*
25ml Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino
15ml Campari

A strip of orange peel and a toasted pecan to garnish.

Combine the toasted nut bourbon, vermouth and Campari in a chilled ice-filled shaker, stir and strain into an Old Fashioned glass containing, ideally, one large cube of ice (if not just use four or so conventional ones). Twist the orange peel over the drink, drop in and rest the pecan on the giant ice cube.

* Toast 150g of pecans and 100g walnuts in a preheated 180°C oven for about 10 minutes, turning a couple of times to ensure even toasting. Allow to cool and then put them in a Kilner jar with 700ml of Heaven Hill bourbon. Leave to infuse for four days and then strain through a coffee filter into a sterilised bottle.  

Spirited Guide to Vermouth

Spirited Guide to Vermouth

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Piedmont part three: The wine behind Italy’s famous Barolo Chinato

What happens when you combine one of the world’s most sought-after red wines with the dry bitterness of a gin and tonic? The answer: Barolo Chinato. Annie Hayes headed to…

What happens when you combine one of the world’s most sought-after red wines with the dry bitterness of a gin and tonic? The answer: Barolo Chinato. Annie Hayes headed to Piedmont in northern Italy – the home of aperitif and sparkling wine producer Cocchi – to find out more…

Unless you’re a bartender, Italian, or really like wine, you might not be familiar with Barolo Chinato: a quinine-forward aromatised wine made from the nebbiolo grape. But if you’re keen on an after-dinner tipple, or (like me) have a penchant for bitter-sweet tinctures, you might well be missing a trick.

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Piedmont part two: The sparkling union between Bava Winery and Giulio Cocchi

Aperitif and sparkling wine producer Cocchi recently welcomed MoM to its Italian home in Piedmont. We marvel at the brand’s fascinating history, take a peek at aromatised wine production at…

Aperitif and sparkling wine producer Cocchi recently welcomed MoM to its Italian home in Piedmont. We marvel at the brand’s fascinating history, take a peek at aromatised wine production at Bava Winery, and touch on the world of Futurist cocktails…

“Our family tree dates back to 1682 – and it started on that hill,” says company director Roberto Bava, as he gestures at a vineyard opposite the Bava Winery. “We were farmers who came from the Savoy area to run the farm. We’ve been there ever since.”

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Piedmont part one: The epicentre of Italian vermouth

Piedmont: home of slow food, fine wine, and… medieval horse festivals? Well actually, yes. Aperitif and sparkling wine producer Cocchi recently welcomed MoM to the region for a weekend packed…

Piedmont: home of slow food, fine wine, and… medieval horse festivals? Well actually, yes. Aperitif and sparkling wine producer Cocchi recently welcomed MoM to the region for a weekend packed with bareback horse racing and vermouth-flavoured ice cream. Here’s what we discovered…

Many people go through their entire life without hearing those three little words. Unforgettable words that, when uttered together, promise the recipient that life will never, ever be the same from that moment on. No not ‘I love you’ – we’re talking about ‘medieval horse festival’. Or, if you want to be specific, ‘Palio di Asti’.

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Master of Cocktails – The Old Pal

Right then – everyone about ready for a #MasterofCocktails? This evening we’re going to make an oft-overlooked drink, the ‘Old Pal’. The use of Dry vermouth lends this drink a…

Master of Cocktails The Old pal

Right then – everyone about ready for a #MasterofCocktails?

This evening we’re going to make an oft-overlooked drink, the ‘Old Pal’. The use of Dry vermouth lends this drink a light and very ‘aperitiffy’ (definitely not a word) character which makes it a wonderful springtime drink.

We’re going to start off by summoning up the energy to get off the sofa and walk over to the bar.

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Master of Cocktails – The Bobby Burns

For #MasterofCocktails this week we made a twist on the Rob Roy (which I’ve decided on balance might be a rubbish drink). It’s called a ‘Bobby Burns’ – and uses…

Master of Cocktails The Bobby Burns

For #MasterofCocktails this week we made a twist on the Rob Roy (which I’ve decided on balance might be a rubbish drink). It’s called a ‘Bobby Burns’ – and uses a healthy slug of Bénédictine to give the whisky and vermouth a much-needed lift.

It’s obviously named after the Scottish Bard, Robert Burns, but in the week that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s original drummer Bob Burns tragically died it seems a fitting tribute to him as well.

So, let’s get to it…

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Master of Cocktails – Flower Arranging With Mr. Gumby

Hi there folks. If you tuned into the @MasterOfMalt Twitter feed on Sunday night for another edition of #MasterofCocktails, you may have noticed it was a bit late. Sorry about…

Master of Cocktails Flower Arranging With Mr Gumby

Hi there folks. If you tuned into the @MasterOfMalt Twitter feed on Sunday night for another edition of #MasterofCocktails, you may have noticed it was a bit late. Sorry about that. Been doing a spot of flooring. My whole house smells like young Bourbon. I quite like it.

Right then. Onto today’s cocktail. This’n’s called ‘Flower Arranging with Mr Gumby’. Reasons for the name will become apparent very soon.

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Master of Cocktails – Cask-Aged Martinez

Right then – time for this week’s #MasterofCocktails, where we will be making a Cask-Aged Martinez. Now this week’s drink is going to take probably 2 minutes to prepare, as…

Master of Cocktails Cask Aged Martinez

Right then – time for this week’s #MasterofCocktails, where we will be making a Cask-Aged Martinez. Now this week’s drink is going to take probably 2 minutes to prepare, as we’ve done all the prep. already. Clever us. If you’ve not done your homework yet or need a bit of a refresher on what you’ll been needing in your cask (available here), have a look at the Prep. Blog Post I made early last week for the recipe.

Once you’re up to speed, we can begin. Go on. I can wait… Ready? Lovely.

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Master of Cocktails Prep. – Cask-Aged Martinez

Right then folks, you’ve had a day to assemble the bottles we’ll be needing for the prep for the upcoming #MasterofCocktails – This is really the ‘Christmas Panacea’ you’ve been…

Master of Cocktails Christmas Panacea

Right then folks, you’ve had a day to assemble the bottles we’ll be needing for the prep for the upcoming #MasterofCocktails – This is really the ‘Christmas Panacea’ you’ve been dreaming of.

If you’re anything like me, there’ll be a seemingly endless procession of loved-ones throughout the Christmas period and ‘another Baileys’ only works so far. So – we’re going to make ourselves a cask of Martinez. Because, well, you know… Stir, strain and serve rocks.

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