How should you drink vermouth this Christmas?
by Julian Davies
I had a very exciting day a few weeks ago. I was lucky enough to get a slot at a local Christmas market, and it was my first chance to bring along a few bottles of Ostara, set up a little bar, talk to festive shoppers about vermouth, and ply them with drink.
It was such a great day! It was a strange one for me. I was pretty nervous beforehand. I’m still small enough, and this is still so personal, that I knew that anything even vaguely negative I heard about Ostara would be hard to take. I shouldn’t have worried; things were unhesitatingly positive. Well… I say that… in fact there was one lady who tried it and god love her said “ooh no, I’m not sure about that. I usually only drink liqueurs, this needs more sugar”. I’ll not be rushing an extra-sugar flavour out any time soon, but one person not loving it out of about 300 or so who tried it, by my best guess, is pretty good going.
Anyway, one of the big things I learnt is how unfamiliar vermouth is to most people still. And I think that’s amazing, because therein lies the opportunity. Therein of course also lies the challenge, but it’s one I shall have huge fun overcoming. I must have said the phrase “well, vermouth is basically a cross between wine and gin” several hundred times, and many times was still met with a slightly blank stare. But the point is that people loved the drink – whatever they thought it was!
So my biggest learning was that a) people don’t know what vermouth is and b) (and probably by logical extension) they have no idea how to drink it.
Obviously this very website can help you with the basics: try it neat, add some ice if you desire, maybe a slice of lemon or orange…. Try it with tonic – as a G&T substitute and at a third of the alcohol it’s like having a better player on the reserves’ bench… Or it goes in some of your favourite cocktails such as a Negroni.
But – how about these little extra tips for festive consumption:
This is such a simple idea, super easy to do, and will bowl your friends over with how ahead of the trend you are!
Simply purchase a bottle of Ostara Red. Warm in a pan. Add some Orange juice (I’ve actually found, perish the thought, that just basic OJ with no bits from Tesco or suchlike works best). Add a slice of Orange maybe, then serve instead of mulled wine. BEAUTIFUL!
This idea is shamelessly stolen from a new friend of mine who owns an amazing local bar. Hopefully she won’t read this or I’m in trouble…
Infuse some fresh figs in your favourite gin for a couple of weeks. (better get on with it now…). Then strain and retain. Then, take equal parts of Ostara Red, Figgy Gin, and a bitter like Campari or the Martini one which is even better. Done!
“Just” a festive vermouth and tonic!
Either of my variants work exceptionally well with good tonic. Just plain tonic mind, don’t be tempted to go crazy with the weird flavours. I urge you to go for a 50/50 tonic to vermouth ratio – so the vermouth is diluted too much. 1:3 is OK but if you try 1:4 I’ll find out and will put a stop to it. Plenty of ice! Then – give it a little festive twist with your garnish… a bit of fresh rosemary perhaps? Cinnamon stick? Dried fruits?... Whatever you think.
Hopefully any three of these festive suggestions will give you something new to drink and something to speak about with those weird cousins you’ve managed to avoid for the last two years. Or maybe it’ll just brighten a long November evening. Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy them. Do please let me know.