Sweet vermouth is often thought of as nothing more than a supporting player in many cocktails. But we’re here to tell you that it can be so much more. It can carry a cocktail all on its own. If you’re dubious of the idea, chances are you've been drinking subpar vermouth, or worse, a bottle that's spoiled. Like wine, vermouth doesn't fare well once open—it will oxidize and its flavors will change drastically—so if you've got a bottle that's been sitting half-empty on a dusty shelf, please do yourself a favor and toss it immediately.
After you get rid of the bad stuff, go out and get yourself a bottle of Carpano Antica. Carpano Antica is our favorite sweet vermouth, with a history dating back to the 18th century. It’s rich and full-bodied, sweet but a little less so than many other brands, and with a fascinating range of flavors, from sharp herbs to citrus peel.
Try it in these three cocktails and watch it shine.
Easy: Vermouth and Soda
Let's start with a highball. Just adding soda (and a big squeeze of lemon) lightens it up, letting you appreciate the vermouth's many varied flavors. And since Carpano clocks in at 17 percent ABV, this is a perfect lunchtime or weekend cocktail; even three of these will barely get you tipsy.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, gently stir together 1 1/2 ounces of sweet vermouth and 4 ounces of soda water. Squeeze a lemon wedge on top.
Intermediate: Revised Manhattan
The classic Manhattan starts with a solid base of whiskey and just a little vermouth to sweeten it up. But here, we're bringing the vermouth to the forefront. Equal parts vermouth and a standard bourbon would be quite sweet, so we're opting for the powerful Booker's bourbon, which, at 126 proof, is powerful enough to stand up to the sweet vermouth.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces each of overproof bourbon (like Booker's) and sweet vermouth. Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel, twisting over the surface of the drink to spray its citrus oils all over, and a brandied cherry.
Vermouth tends to pair well with just about any spirit: gin, bourbon and even tequila. Here, we're letting Carpano add its sweet, complex character to a shaken silver tequila drink that ends up tasting an awful lot like a margarita, but with a lot more going on.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces silver tequila, 1 ounce of sweet vermouth, 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice and 1/4 ounce agave syrup (equal part agave dissolved in hot water). Shake that all up and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel or two.