favorite / best daily vermouth?
I know that there is a lot of variation in personal taste in vermouth, and that different styles will work better in different cocktails, but all that aside, I'm curious for opinions on what to stock in a minimal home bar.
If you could just only one dry/white/french vermouth, maybe two, and only one sweet/red/italian vermouth, maybe two, what would you choose? What's your daily mixer?
Bottles that are technically not vermouth, like Lillet, can be included if you find them equally versatile. And I know Carpano Antica is pretty much the gold standard for red, but do you really stock it all the time?
Edify me please, I've explored these realms a bit but am looking for more guidance and a few new things to try.
I really do stock Antica Formula from Carpano at all times. Yes, it is more expensive but it goes a lot further than other vermouths and it should be noted, is sold in 1 liter bottles as opposed to the 750ML's you find most other vermouths in, so you're buying a little more volume while spending a little more. And as you surely know from already correctly identifying it as the "Gold Standard," you'll need to fiddle a little but with your recipes to get things just the way you like them, especially ones where there are bitters included.
For white, I think you have a little more wiggle room. This largely depends on how much you, or the regulars at your home bar, care about drinking Martini's. For a Bronx Cocktail or Algonquin, I can't say that you'll really have an obviously superior cocktial with one or another, though this is onbviously personal taste. I prefer Vya dry but it isn't always easy to find and I am, well, a total cocktail geek. I also always have a back up of Noilly Prat which is probably fine for your purposes. It is worth noting that Boissiere Dry is really really nice but not what you are asking for in terms of an every day item.
Now, to my last point, I really don't personally care for certain brands but, there is nothing wrong with the big names. I always have a bottle of the Martini and Rossi Bianco (which is different from their dry) as it makes a great low alcohol cocktail with anything sparkling (wine, pop, water etc.) for those who want to be festive and not get hammered. That is rarely me. Nonetheless, do stay away from the $4 crap bottled by that giant winery in Modesto.
I generally have a bottle of Carpano, Vya, or Dolin sweet vermouth open. But only one will be open at a time since vermouth does go bad after a while and I don't use it too often. With a bit of tinkering, they're all similarly adequate in my opinion. Vya is a bit on the heavier and spicier side, Dolin a bit cleaner, Carpano somewhere in the middle, so depending on which one I'm using I'll go up or down a on volume and bitters.
I use dry vermouth much less regularly than sweet. Right now I have a bottle of Dolin open, and before that was a bottle of Vya, and that takes me back to last year sometime -- so I certainly don't mind spending a bit more to get a higher quality product. Again, I think that once you get out of the bottom shelf zone they're of more or less equally high quality.
I also like to mess around with chinato, Cocchi Americano, and other non-vermouth aromatized wines. I use them in the same way as I'd use a vermouth, and I try to follow the same basic rule of having only one sweet vermouth type thing and one dry vermouth type thing open at a time. This means that I might make a "Manhattan" with chinato (which, by the way, works REALLY well), and that's certainly quite different than a vermouth-based Manhattan, but I like a bit of variety. Why pick just one?
I'm not a Carpano fan even though that seems to be the cocktail drinkers favorite.It has too much of a vanilla flavor for me, which I'm not big on.I've gone through two 1 liter bottles( at $30 a pop) and my opinion hasn't changed.My favorite cocktail is a Manhattan,with a Negroni (using Aperol rather than Campari) not far behind and I don't enjoy Carpano in either.Although when tasting sweet vermouth individually I do like Carpano more than most others.My favorites are Vya,followed by Dolin.Of the most easily findable I like is M & R.
Count me amongst the NOT a fan of Carpano Antico in a Manhattan. I like it alone in a glass, but find it overwhelms the classic balance of a good Manhattan and just blows the whiskey away. Similar to using WAY too much bitters in a Manhattan.
I like Dolin, I have some obscure Italian Vermouth whose name eludes me open at home which I like quite a bit. I also like Noilly Prat white and red versions.
For white vermouth I have a California artisanal product open right now that is very good. Again (sorry) name eludes me...
For a rosso, lately I've been using a lot of Punt e Mes: I like its bitter profile, and frankly the volume in the bottle is just big enough not to go stale until I finish it. (I love Carpano Antica but wish for freshness' sake that the bottle were smaller.)
Instead of French vermouth, I've been using Lillet blanc much more. Its citrus character I find a lot more versatile in the kind of cocktails I like to make than regular dry vermouth, although it too has its place. But I still buy 350ml bottles of Noilly Prat, which I keep fridged and use within a month to ensure freshness. And if vermouth isn't used within a month for cocktails, I end up using it a lot for deglazing sautées.
Nothing too special here, but I tend to keep 375mls of Noilly Pratt and Martini&Rossi Rosso open. Neither will blow you away, but each does it job well in a Martini for the NP or a Negroni or Manhattan for the M&R. I like it that they come in 375s. They're reasonably priced. And, at a half-bottle size, they pace my cocktail drinking well.
When I want to do something a bit more I open a bottle of Cocchi Americano, which I love in a Corpse Reviver 2 and can use up in aperitifs with prosecco or some other bubbly before it reaches its expiry date. I also find it mixes well as an aperitivo with fino, which is another thing I too often have n hand as an open bottle that needs to be drunk. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.
Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe next time I open a Cocchino Americano, I'll play with using it in a Negroni or Americano type drink instead of the M&R. Ya' think?