White vermouth is a staple of any well-stocked bar, but beyond its supporting role in a martini, what's it good for?
"It's simple and delicious," says Ashley Santoro, wine director of NYC's Narcissa, of this fortified wine infused with botanicals, with gentle hints of citrus and a lightly bitter finish. And it's great on it's own.
"At home, I find myself drinking vermouth on warmer days, served over ice with a twist of grapefruit or orange."
She's experimented with the ice, too, playing with ice makers of all sizes and shapes. "I've come to prefer two or three small cubes, or crushed iced," Santoro says.
We happen to prefer medium-sized, square cubes to crushed ice for the clink factor.
Here are her three of Santoro's favorite white vermouths to get you started.
Lillet Blanc, Bordeaux, France, $19
"All the variations of Lillet—Blanc, Rouge and the recently launched Rosé—are primarily a blend of Bordeaux wines, the Blanc being Semillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc. It's simple, delicious and refreshing. Serve it with a twist of orange."
Channing Daughters, Vervino Variation #5, Long Island, New York, $28
"This is a really interesting vermouth line from the Long Island winery. There are five different variations, all made with different botanicals. They're all so different and so wonderful in their own way, but I've really taken a liking to Variation #5. It has fresh melon and peach, and herbaceous notes."
Massican, Napa, California, $35
"There's not one thing that winemaker Dan Petroski can do wrong in my book. The wines from Massican are composed of grape varieties of Northeast Italy, like Ribolla Giailla and Friulano, and the vermouth—from what I understand—started as a side project, but now it's something that everyone joneses for. This is on the drier side, and it takes well to mixing with tonic (I like Fever Tree) to add a touch of sweetness. I add a twist of orange or grapefruit to finish it off."