Taken as a medicinal draught to aid digestion since the late C.18th, the blending of choice, bitter and rare botanicals with wine to produce an aromatic, fortified wine, vermouth had always, to use a pun, been steeped in mystery, with each producer jealously guarding their secret recipes and blends.
The invention in the C.20th of the cocktail as we know it today changed all that, with the aperitif becoming one of the central ingredients to many of the greatest classic concoctions in the bartenders lexicon. Where would the heady, resonant notes of the Negroni, Manhattan, Martini and ne plus ultra Vesper be, without their star turn – vermouth?
The explosion of interest in artisanal wines, spirits and traditional cocktails has seen its return to centre stage with the great houses like Carpano, Dolin and Noilly Prat vying for exclusivity and cachet with a whole new raft of modern aperitifs. And it’s into this fray that Hong Kong’s own bar guru extraordinaire Giancarlo Mancino steps with his new Mancino brand of three distinctly debonair vermouths.
Having put 3 Michelin-starred Otto e Mezzo firmly on the cocktail aficionado map, and now working on his next venture Il Milione in Hong Kong’s Bank of America Tower, Mancino’s attention was drawn to what he calls the lack of “depth of charisma” in the market, seeking instead “a vermouth that could be savoured as a solo experience and not only for mixing”. The result, macerated in Trebbiano di Romagna wine, and produced in Piermont in the northwest of Italy, are three very singular blends that exude old world charm and finesse – Secco, Bianco Ambrato and Rosso Amaranto.
Infused with sage, marjoram and oregano, the Secco with its undertones of dog rose and iris is the perfect, super-dry martini mixer or straight up on ice for a bittersweet blast that’s as good with soda as it is alone. The amber-coloured Bianco Ambrato offers an ambrosial melding of 37 botanics including angelica, chamomile, sweet orange, ginger and grapefruit alongside a piquant blast of quinine that makes for an intriguing change in a Vesper from the de rigeur Lillet Blanc, while the rich, dark elixir Rosso Amaranto brings a warming, ambient depth of rhubarb, vanilla, toasted wood and juniper, making it absolutely spot-on for a vintage Negroni or classic Manhattan. Why not try one...
30ml gin, 20ml Campari, 50ml Mancino Rosso Amaranto, 2 dashes of The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters and 2 dashes of The Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters – stir with high quality cracked ice and strain on the rocks in a tumbler, garnish with a wedge of orange and a grapefruit twist. Bliss.http://mancinovermouth.com