Saturday, August 29, 2009

some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain


Isn't the Punt e Mes logo a lovely thing?

I actually discovered cocktails, real cocktails, in Indiana of all places.  After I'd rediscovered whiskey at the Irish pub in Bloomington, I started paying more attention to the drink menus, and ordered a Negroni because I didn't know what it was, and reading the ingredients -- Campari, gin, vermouth -- didn't exactly enlighten me.

Oh Campari.

You little devil.

I don't know how to explain Campari to you if you haven't had it.  Have you had Sanbitter soda?  Well there you go.  But most of you just said no, so like I said, I don't know how to explain it to you.  It's bitter.  It's sweet.  It's red.  It's too strong -- both too bitter and too sweet -- to drink straight, though dammit I'll do it if I have to.  Gin cuts it wonderfully, and I've made a ton of vermouth-less Negronis in the past, which aren't Negronis at all, but whatever, I was out of vermouth.  

I always tell people you need to try Campari three times before you decide what you think of it.

A Negroni made with whiskey instead of gin is a Boulevardier.  So this drink -- more or less equal parts wheat whiskey, Punt e Mes vermouth, and Campari -- is basically a Boulevardier, but Punt e Mes deserves special note.  Just like Campari did.  And the whiskey, yesterday.  This cocktail is all about special notes.  I should call it the Mezzanine instead.

Vermouth is a fortified wine, meaning you start with wine and add distilled liquor to it, like port and sherry.  Unlike those, vermouth is seasoned with herbs and spices.  Forget anything you've heard about using epically small amounts of vermouth in a martini ("tap the bottle against the glass," those vermouth misters, etc), it's all horseshit.  Vermouth is good.  If you want a glass of gin instead of a martini, ask for one.  If you want a glass of vodka, go screw.

Punt e Mes is an especially bitter vermouth, and is different enough from my usual vermouth selections -- Noilly Prat or Lillet Blanc (Lillet isn't vermouth, but it's similar enough that I sub it a lot) -- that to me, using Punt e Mes makes a drink distinctly different.  Maybe not enough to need a different name, but it's definitely noticeable.

By the way, the burnt peach garnish (which seemed to suit both the drink and the weather) will slide down the rim of the Mason jar and bump you in the face, turns out.  Sorry about that.  This is why I don't monkey around with that sort of frippery very often.


  1. I love Negronis. Campari has such a beautiful colour.

    Why do you hate vodka so much?

  2. Mostly I just don't think vodka has much point in a cocktail -- it adds alcohol but not flavor. But when it comes to vodka martinis and the like, the popularity of vodka (created mostly by marketing and partially by the new acceptability of getting girls drunk in public) came at the expense of gin, and vodka culture displaced cocktail culture and paved the way for appletinis, premixed "cocktails" made with neutral spirits and artificial flavoring, flavored vodkas that are little more than Skittles and grain alcohol, etc... and I hold a grudge for all that.