Wednesday, December 28, 2005

In Defense of Vermouth

I tried to order an Old Fashioned in one of the new Chinatown hotspots awhile back, and the bartender couldn't do it. "I refuse to stock vermouth in my bar," he told me, adding a little snear to the word vermouth.

The bartenders at a friend's bar - a very cool neighborhood hangout - didn't even know what vermouth was.

Last week I was at a party. The food was devine, the liquor premium, and the crowd hella cool. The hosts were mixing martinis in the kitchen. I offered to help, but couldn't find the vermouth. And sure enough ... they didn't have any.

This past weekend Roy and I went to Cirque Hawai`i [it was completely amateurish - don't go unless your tickets are free]. We stopped at a bar in International Marketplace en route, figuring we'd have a final drink before the whole place is torn down and replaced by Armani Exchange clones. I ordered a Manhattan, and hell if the guy wasn't sure how to make it. "There's ... vermouth in that, right?"

I don't understand this contempt for vermouth one bit. With the looks I was getting you'd have thought I was asking for Mad Dog or Boone's Farm. This is getting ridiculous.

Ready for the rant?

1. Vermouth is a fine drink. It is an essential ingredient to the classic American cocktails. Sweet Vermouth is an excellent digestif. If your bar doesn't stock it, your bar isn't stocked ... and I don't care how expensive your other grain spirits are.

2. Cheap vermouth tastes cheap. There's no reason to stock it.

3. A martini has vermouth in it. The dry in dry martini does not mean no vermouth. It means the martini is made with dry vermouth [as opposed to the classic martini, made with both sweet and dry vermouth]. Waving the vermouth bottle over the top of the glass is stupid and doesn't count. Some wanker did it once, other wankers copied him, and soon the sheep figured that that was the cool thing to do. Don't be a sheep. Pour the vermouth into the frikkin' gin.

4. Oh. It's a dry vodka martini. My bad. Grow some cajones and call it what it is, then - a shot of vodka.

off topic: Vodka is basically neutral grain spirits with water added. Unlike almost every other liquor, vodka makers don't actually brew their product. They buy the grain spirit from a distributor, and add water. The only difference between Grey Goose, Finlandia, and Russian Rotgut is the source of the water. It's the biggest scam since ... oh. Bottled water.

I'm liking the new state job. I'm part bureaucrat [boring] and part eco-police [cool]. Hopefully I'll find a way to work some environmental planning into the mix.

The problem is, I can't really write about things except in the vaguest sense - it would be a quick path to a lawsuit. It's too bad; you meet some characters on the job [the starlet who wants to build her dream home, the politician illegally poisoning trees in his neighborhood, and the mainlanders sending us rocks they took, hoping to alleviate Pele's curse].

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