Gin and It
Gin and what? Gin and It. What’s It? It’s vermouth. Italian vermouth, also known as sweet vermouth or, if we’re being uncouth, red vermouth. It doesn’t get any simpler than this ancient combo. Sibling of the Martini, quite possibly the elder sibling at that, the Gin and It is a forgotten classic that is long overdue a resurrection. Because gins and Italian vermouths vary quite widely in flavour there is considerable scope for experimentation here both in the spirits used and the relative proportions. You’ll know when you’ve hit the sweet spot but be sure to write it down when you do. While my pictured Plymouth and Willem’s combo wasn’t at all bad I didn’t think it quite hit the nail on the head. But them’s the breaks: the micro-synergies that take a cocktail to the upper levels are hard to predict. I guess I’ll just have to keep trying. Watch this space…
Gin and It
2oz – 2.5oz gin of choice.
0.5-1oz Italian (aka sweet, red) vermouth of choice.
Stir with ice.
Strain into a chilled champagne coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.
Toast Antonio Benedetto Carpano for inventing vermouth in 1786.
In that latter half of the 19th century these strange fortified wines called vermouth started showing up in early cocktails. And for a long while the cocktail world went vermouth crazy. But what the heck is this stuff? Originally – like so many of our ingredients – intended as a stomach medicine, vermouth is made by steeping herbs and spices in wine to extract their magical powers. There are three kinds of which you need only two but need them you do. The kind you don’t need is white/blanco/bianco vermouth. Glad we got that out of the way. The two remaining, and useful, types are:
Dry vermouth. Aka: “extra dry” or French vermouth. This has bitter notes and is used to counterbalance sweetness in a cocktail. Apart from the label this is almost always identified by being in a green bottle.
Sweet vermouth. Aka: Italian vermouth or red vermouth. It either comes in a red bottle or is red in a clear bottle (see pic above). While it’s called “sweet” it’s actually a balance of bitter and sweet but gets its name by being sweeter than dry vermouth.
Happily we are living through a vermouth renaissance with a quite spectacular array of choices compared to just a few years ago. Dolin is a rock solid brand for both styles and I’m a huge fan of Punt e Mes as a bittered Italian style. Noilly Pratt is a good French vermouth that is widely available. Excellent high end Italian vermouths include Carpano Antica and Willem’s Wermoed – from right here in good old Amsterdam.
Note that the “French” and “Italian” names are only indications of the style of the vermouth. The French make both dry and sweet as do the Italians.
Vermouth tends to go off after a while. I suggest keeping it in the fridge and/or using a Vacu-Vin stopper to prolong its life.