November Vermouth Round Up
Updated: Jul 28, 2021
I've always intended my tasting guides to be living guides, constantly updated as I taste new products, receive new information, and retry previously explored vermouths.
When I launched this blog back in the spring with tasting notes for 100+ bottles of vermouth and quinquina, I was well aware I was missing dozens of bottles. Some have remained difficult to track down and some I simply couldn't afford at the time.
Reader donations (via the subtle PayPal link at the bottom of the page *wink*) have gone directly toward buying new vermouth to round out these guides. In the past I've simply updated the tasting notes as I acquire new bottles, but moving forward I'll also be highlighting the fortified wines I pick up in monthly round-ups like this one.
Unlike my tasting guides which are a straight-forward resource, this is where I'll dig into and detail how I enjoyed drinking and mixing with each new bottle.
If you're new to the world of vermouth, check out my Introduction to Vermouth post to learn some basics, introduce yourself to some of the terminology used, and get a general overview of how these guides are structured (and why). Then join me back here to get into the details!
Hotel Starlino Rosso
Producer: Torino Distillati
Wine Base: Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc, Marsala
Known Botanicals: at least 13, 3 different kinds of wormwood (gentle, Roman, artemesia absinthium), cinchona, orange, vanilla, bitter orange, clove, raisin, rhubarb, tolu balsam, ginger, grape skin
Sugar Content: N/A
Nose: cinchona, orange, clove, cinnamon, raisin, fig, wormwood, menthol
Palate: cinnamon, vanilla, raisin, orange, apricot, rhubarb, oregano, black cherry
Finish: vanilla, cinnamon, clove, wormwood, tobacco, licorice, oregano, black cherry
Additional Notes: Huge cinnamon and clove with lots of stewed and oxidized red fruit. Rested in ex-Kentucky Bourbon barrels for 30 days. Leaves behind plenty of mulling spices and woody, stemmy flavors. Lots of cherry cola vibes throughout.
Holds up incredibly well in a variety of cocktails (Manhattan, Negroni, and Martinez) and makes for excellent Improved Vermouth Cocktails and cobblers. When hit with enough dilution (soda water, crushed ice when served as a cobbler) Starlino Rosso exhibits lots of Dr. Pepper and cherry cola flavors. All of this is to say it is on the sweeter side with a nice balance of fruit and confection, but lighter on the bitter herbaceous notes. For fans of big, sweet, confectionary Italian vermouths.
As an aside, I was a bit...bewildered by the design of the bottle. It certainly stands out against every other Italian vermouth bottle on the shelf, that's for sure. I was also a little put off by the needlessly hefty cork until I learned that much of the bottle's design is to evoke details of the Starlino Hotel. Turns out that chonky top is actually supposed to be a doorknob!
Lacuesta Extra Dry
Producer: Bodegas Martinez Lacuesta
Wine Base: N/A
Known Botanicals: at least 20, wormwood
Sugar: 28.8 g/l
Nose: lemon, wormwood, cinnamon, orange, chamomile, bay leaf, tarragon, pine, banana
Palate: lemon, orange, wormwood, raisin, cinnamon, grapefruit, sea salt, chamomile, pine
Finish: lemon, wormwood, cinchona, green apple, cinnamon, raisin, faint licorice
Additional Notes: Light straw yellow with a faint green hue. Seemingly the same product as Lacuesta Blanco, but with less added sugar. Extremely dry and salinic with a drying finish brought on by a sustained lingering bitterness. Dilution brings out tons of cinnamon and raisin notes which peek through into cocktails when mixed. Like many Spanish dry vermouths, there are big fino sherry vibes.
To be honest, I didn't do much with this bottle other than simply drink it over ice with citrus twists. I made a few Martinis as well, finding the most success with gins containing little to no citrus such as Tanqueray. It also made for a solid Metropole.
Wine Base: N/A
Known Botanicals: at least 4, cinchona, almond, cherry, lemon
Nose: almond, cherry, cinchona, white grape, lemon, anise, apricot
Palate: cherry, lemon, cinchona, white tea, marzipan, fig, cinnamon, almond, peach
Finish: cherry, amaretto, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon, banana, apricot, white tea
Additional Notes: Dull cherry red color. Fortified with cherry brandy and sweetened with cherry juice. Very light body with a quick, bright attack which cedes to a warming, but fairly dry finish. Stemmy and tannic. Mostly cherry and almond from nose to finish. Most comparable to Dubbonet Rouge within the quinquina category.
I'm not going to lie: I've never been wild about Maurin Quina. There's a lot of cherry and almond with very little quinine bite and there isn't a ton of movement on the palate. That said, I enjoyed it lengthened with soda and it takes nicely to absinthe, making for nice Improved Vermouth Cocktails. The most successful application saw it used as both the fortified wine and cherry liqueur substitute in an Old Overholt based Remember the Maine. It's best used when specifically looking for cherry to come through in a cocktail.
Producer: Vinos de Terruños
Wine Base: Muscatel, Merseguera
Known Botanicals: wormwood
Nose: pear, cinnamon, cedar, bay leaf, orange, vanilla, rose, white pepper, rhubarb, banana
Palate: cinchona, pear, lemon, cinnamon, licorice, tobacco, tarragon, sage, rhubarb
Finish: cinchona, raisin, currant, tobacco, cinnamon, eucalyptus, pear, rhubarb, coffee
Additional Notes: Rich mahogany color. Savory, smokey, and spicy with a pronounced rhubarb bitterness similar to Cappelletti Sfumato Rabarbaro Amaro. Very light body, dries out quickly. Doesn't hold up particularly well in cocktails.
One of the more distinct Spanish sweet red vermouths. In fact, the pervasive smokey rhubarb makes for one of the most unique expressions of sweet red vermouth from any producer, period. It very much reminded me of Sfumato and was enjoyable over ice, with soda water, and in cobblers. The low sugar content combined with a perceived high acidity makes for a tricky cocktail ingredient. I found it made for less than ideal Manhattans, but good Negroni and Boulevardie cocktails thanks to the Campari's sugar boost. I also gave it a whirl in a Wardays, but I think it was both the wrong vermouth and gin for the cocktail.
Check the individual regional Vermouth guides for more detailed information on regional styles and recommended bottles:
Sweet White Vermouth
Sweet Red Vermouth
Quinquina and Americano
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