I usually order a double, because they always pour it short.
It’s a cocktail after all, not a fucking espresso.
I only find this elixir infrequently, often in Italian joints with a well-stocked bar. A quick scan of the bottles on the back bar and I’m able to immediately identify its vesssel; over-sized at one-liter, with a red cap, and an ornately scripted, cream-colored label with an Italian crest and the words ‘Antica Formula dal 1786.’ It looks like an ancient remedy or potion and indeed, this sweet vermouth has its roots in treatment. Sweet vermouth is crafted from a red base wine fortified with a proprietary blend of roots, barks, flowers, seeds, spices, herbs, and sweetened with spirits and sugar. It was initially offered as a medicinal drink to treat stomach disorders and parasites, first by the Chinese in 1000 BC, and then by the Indians and the Greeks.
The Antico Formula sweet vermouth was created in 1786 by Antonio Benedetto Carpano in Turino, Italy. The father of vermouth, he infused more than 30 various ingredients, secret to this day, into red base wine before adding spirits. Carpano thought it more dignified a drink than wine for a woman, but at 16.5% alcohol, this is not your grandmother’s spritzer. His special hootch was in such demand that he served up this delightful aperitif 24-hours a day in his local cafe.
Vermouth is actually the French pronunciation of Wermut, the German word for wormwood, an herbaceous plant used in the making of both vermouth and absinthe. Fully understanding what comprises a good drink, the Brits developed a taste for it in mid-1700s, referring to it as vermouth, which stuck. Not to be outdone, Frenchman Joseph Noilly produced the first pale, dry vermouth with infused white wine in the early 1800s.
On the rocks with a juicy slice of orange, it’s spicy, dark and sweet, with a back note of bitterness. It coats the palate, making me salivate for the second half of the drink, and then of course, for dinner, with wine.
It is an aperitif, after all.