It is fair to say, that covid and record temperatures make for bad bedfellows.
This house has managed to come out the other side, eventually. During those sweat-drenched nights, the one fever dream I kept having time and again, was what I would eventually have in a long, tall glass filled with ice – that wasn’t Alka Seltzer XS.
I kept coming back to the same thing. Vermouth.
There are few drinks that sing as harmoniously with a warm, summer’s evening, quite like bitters and a mixer. Campari and Soda are a classic combination which should never be overlooked, but for this column, I want to encourage you to drink vermouth.
For most of you, if you have vermouth in a cupboard (please, stick it in the fridge), it’s primary use will be in a Negroni. While there is nothing wrong in restricting a drink to form a potent triumvirate, vermouths can be used in a variety of ways.
Red vermouths tend to balance well with soda or tonic and a slice of citrus. Served tall, they rarely last long enough for the ice to melt in the glass.
White vermouths can vary. Some are delicate enough to warrant being served with nothing more than a sprig of herbs – thyme or rosemary – a crash of ice and a slice of peel. Twisted in the way that adds five minutes to every drink you order at the bar.
As with any drink the key is to experiment. Take a mass produced, readily available brand such as Martini or Cinzano and explore from there. Do you want to drink rosso or bianco from the heartland of Turin in the Northeast of Italy, where bitterness is king? Are you more of a sweeter Spanish Vermut fan or possibly even a delicate French drinker – where it’s all small glasses and smooth lines?
The best way to experiment is to try house favourites in our local bars or restaurants. On a recent visit to the Moorcock Inn, which is Leeds enough for the purpose of this recommendation, I found a brilliant white, Italian vermouth imported by our very own Wayward Wines. Poured over ice, with a slice of lemon and something green. The perfect pre-dinner drink.
The Reliance always has a range on offer as part of their aperitivo menu – which provides the drinker with a small plate of food for every glass bought. You are practically stealing from them. It’s such a great idea.
Finally, Bomba Paella has a good drinks list, heavily influenced by Spanish vermut, that set you on the way to a tapas filled evening of food and clinking glasses.
This week’s recommendations are:
Partida Creus MUZ Vermut Natural, £26.50; Wayward Wines. You get a litre bottle of banging red vermut, that is great served over ice with nothing more than a slice of orange, to keep the sweetness of the drink without diluting it with a mixer.
Lillet Blanc, £22.50; Latitude Wine. Ice cold, with a twist of lemon and a splash of soda or throw it in a Vesper Martini just before you save the world from all that is evil.