The grape is a very wonderful and universal fruit. Not only do they grow in many varied climates, taste delicious, but they also make a bevy of spirits and liqueurs. From brandy to port to even vodka, the grape has contributed to many widely consumed spirits, liqueurs and wines. While there are many different spirits and liqueurs that utilize grapes, vermouth tends to be the most commonly used when we think of the grape, at least in relation to the cocktail. A vermouth is essentially a fortified wine infused with roots, herbs and spices, and this practice of fortification has been used for thousands of years. Even though this practice is quite ancient, what we currently know as the styles of dry and sweet vermouth have only been around since the 16th century. In fact, the term vermouth comes from the German word wermut, which means wormwood, a common ingredient used in fortified wines.
Dry vermouth is normally referred to as French style, while sweet are Italian style, both from which we have birthed such classic cocktails as The Manhattan, Rob Roy and the Martini. There are also other vermouth style fortified wines such as Lillet, Dubonnet and Bonal Gentaine Qunia, that are unique in contrast to the traditional sweet and dry styles. In fact, even though they are fortified wines they are considered separate classifications and not typically labeled as vermouth. Many modern western distillers are producing new classifications of vermouth such as rose, and use ingredients that push the boundaries of traditional vermouth and fortified wines. Personally, I like using the alternative fortified wines such as Lillet, Cocchi Americano, Bonal and modern styles such as Portland based Imbue for crafting cocktails.
Modern mixologists religiously craft using fortified wines in many different cocktails, however, most cocktails still use them as second note to stronger spirits like rye and gin. You don’t see many aperitif style cocktails like the classic Affinity which use fortified wines and liqueurs as the forefront ingredients. As such, I took it upon myself to craft a modern aperitif that would appeal to many different tastes but still used fortified wines to take center stage. Cheers.
1 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Saler’s Gentaine Liqueur
3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tsp Pistachio Orgeat Syrup
2 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters
6 White Grapes plus 2 for Garnish
Muddle grapes and orgeat syrup in a shaker tin. Add ice and remaining ingredients. Shake and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with 2 grapes and enjoy.
Color: Beautiful reddish pink
Flavor: Rich grape, bitter citrus and grassy gentian, hint of herb, spice and pistachio
Texture: Silky mouth feel and medium body