Category Archives: wine

Vya Vermouth

vya vermouth

Vermouth is one of the first bottles you need to buy when you’re outfitting your home bar. A fortified wine that’s seeped with herbs, vermouth is higher-alcohol than wine and more shelf-stable. It’ll keep for weeks (sometimes months) in the fridge as opposed to wine which spoils within days.

Bottled in Madera, California, Vya Vermouth can be found for $15-20 a bottle. I’ll admit that I usually cheap out when it comes to vermouth, buying the $4 bottles at Trader Joe’s and I’ve thought that was good enough. As soon as I tasted Vya, though, I discovered that I was wrong. The cheaper vermouths are overly bitter and sometimes sour. Vya is softer, smooth, mild, and well-spiced.

Vya Extra Dry is a traditional martini vermouth. This version is acidic and floral, with the flavor balanced somewhere between fresh Italian herbs (like basil) and citrus. It makes a tasty martini and Vya complements the gin well as opposed to the cheap vermouths I’ve been using, which have been making my martinis harsh and sour.

Vya Whisper Dry is a unique vermouth that Vya has created, both less acidic and less herbal than Extra Dry. Whisper Dry is milder and fruitier and the flavor is more similar to white wine than a typical vermouth. Mix this vermouth with a high-quality vodka for a subtle, sweeter martini. I think this is the best Vya to drink by itself, on the rocks before dinner.

Vya Sweet is the vermouth you should use in a Manhattan cocktail or the Turf Club (below). This has a sweet red wine flavor, sure, but there’s also some cloves and cinnamon mixed in there to offset the sweetness. I could almost see this warmed on the stove for Christmas, it’s a really pleasant sweet/spice combination.

Turf Club

  • 1 1/5 oz of Old Tom gin (I used Tanqueray Malacca)
  • 1 1/5 sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes of bitters
  • stir and strain into a cocktail glass
  • lemon peel garnish

Punt e Mes

Punt e Mes

Punt e Mes is an Italian sweet vermouth that’s been made for over a hundred years in Turin. I tend to cheap out when I buy vermouth, and usually just stick with the Trader Joe’s $4 variety, only occasionally splurging for a $10 bottle of Martini and Rossi. Punt e Mes is high-quality stuff though, selling for about $20 a bottle. It’s name implies a point-and-a-half of something, and in the case of Punt e Mes, it’s 1 point sweet red vermouth, 1/2 a point of bitter liqueur (like Campari). So while this tastes mostly like an excellent sweet vermouth, there’s a great, bitter finish to it.

Vermouth is one one of the few liquors I keep in the fridge to preserve it’s life, and my Punt e Mes lives there now, ready to be served on the rocks. Punt e Mes also works well in a Negroni:

Negroni

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz Campari (a bitter liqueur)
  • 1 oz red vermouth (I used Punt e Mes)
  • stir on ice and either strain into a chilled cocktail glass or serve on the rocks
  • garnish with an orange peel

I’m surprised how much I liked a more bitter Negroni, and maybe it was just the quality increase from using Punt e Mes, but I fear that every Negroni I make from here on out will require Punt as the vermouth. It’s really excellent, and will run you about $18 a bottle. The Negroni and more recipes can be found in my ebook, available as a free download when you register for my newsletter.

It’s Spodee!

spodee and coke zero

Spodee is a brand new wine-based drink, combining red wine with moonshine, garden herbs, and a little chocolate, to end up with a very unique fortified wine. Like vermouth or port, combining the wine base with a higher-proof spirit makes Spodee more shelf-stable, as wine alone would spoil a few days after opened.

Spodee comes in a old-timey milk bottle and one of the signature drinks is “Spodee and Sody,” mixing Spodee with your soda of choice. The company recommends using a 1:1 ratio of Spodee to soda, which is good, but most folks who tasted it with me felt that a ratio of 1:4 Spodee to soda was better. The chocolate is the primary flavor you’ll taste, ending up with a Chocolate-Coke-type drink. You can see why Spodee’s clever marketing is a throwback to soda fountains and diners. There are even a few breakfast recipes with Spodee, like the Rise and Wine or Spodee and Joe.

Spodee retails for about $9 in a half-liter jug.

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Watermelon Wine Margarita

watermelon wine margarita ingredients

This recipe will make about a gallon of margaritas, and is low-alcohol, so it’s great for a party or BBQ.  It also tastes like watermelon Jolly Ranchers!

Get a bottle of White Zinfandel, a bottle of Trader Joe’s margarita mixer, some seedless watermelon, and lots of ice. Here’s how you make them:

  • Puree 4 cups of watermelon in the blender, then stir with:
  • 4 cups (the whole bottle) of Trader Joe’s margarita mixer.
  • 2 cups of White Zinfandel.

Serve the mixture in a pitcher or large beverage dispenser of some sort with LOTS of ice, at least 4 cups or more.  You’ll want the heat of the summer to get a little of the melted ice into the drink and get your dispenser all sweaty and cold.

watermelon wine margarita ingredients

Rim your glasses with salt (pink Himalayan looks particularly cool with this one) and serve on ice.  Nothing like an electric pink beverage on a hot summer’s day!

watermelon wine margarita