Vermouth is not the natural front-runner for drink of the summer. But lately, the fortified wine—once considered Grandpa's drink—has been given new life in the form of the bubbly, easy-drinking Vermouth Spritz. The components of the drink are simple enough: vermouth, soda water, garnish. But at heart, it's so much more.
In Spain, nos vamos de vermut ("let's go have a vermouth") is code for a leisurely midafternoon snack—something simple and salty, like canned mussels or potato chips, accompanied by a glass of vermouth, Zack Bezunartea, director of operations for Boqueria in New York and Washington, D.C., explains.
Although vermouth had become stigmatized as old and hokey, a young wine and vermouth maker, Miguel Angel Vaquer, is credited with revitalizing the spirit in Spain, tirelessly evangelizing for "vermouth time," during which the drink is enjoyed on the rocks or in a Spritz.
The Spritz is a remarkably unfussy drink: "The most important part is the ritual itself. It's about taking a break, sitting down and having the vermouth," Bezunartea says. He serves a Spritz at Boqueria and explains how to make one for your next relaxed afternoon.
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First, the vermouth. Red (sweet) or white (dry) is up to you, but Spanish vermouth is preferred, of course. Bezunartea recommends vermouths made by Catalonia's Casa Perucchi, the official purveyor of vermouth to the Spanish royal family; Destilerías Acha, a Basque distillery known for fresh, floral white and herb-laced red vermouth; or Casa Mariol (Vaquer's brand), which makes Vermut Negre.
All three are imported to the U.S. but can be hard to find. Don't tell Spain, but France's Dolin vermouths also work particularly well in a Spritz.
Second, the spritz. Boqueria uses equal parts vermouth and soda. In Spain, "old soda siphons are sometimes brought to the table, so people can give direction as to the proportion that they want."
Third, the garnish. Traditionally, white vermouth Spritzes are garnished with either a lemon twist or an olive (not unlike a martini), while red vermouth is garnished with an orange slice. But the choice is yours: Along with the soda siphon, garnishes typically are brought to the table for guests to select their own.
The end result is a refreshing, sessionable cocktail that has a light hand on the alcohol and pairs well with food.
"It's impossible to mess up—it's going to be good, no matter what," Bezunartea insists. We'll drink to that.