In Valencia, the prevalence of vermouth came as a surprise; and not just any vermouth, but homemade, craft vermouth. During my first week here, my friends Eric and Amalia took me on a tour of café life in my new neighborhood and introduced me to the ritual of tomar un vermut which means, “taking a vermouth."
Day drinking in Spain is like grabbing an espresso in Italy or going out for a craft beer in Colorado. So hanging out in my new hipster neighborhood, our day started with a pitcher of Agua de Valencia which includes fresh squeezed orange juice and cava, the Spanish version of champagne. At our next stop we had sangria, the Spanish wine cocktail that we know best. One of my highlights while traveling is discovering new taste sensations, and I found one at our next stop. Amalia recommended that we try a sampling of vermut casero, which means homemade vermouth.
Previously, I was only familiar with vermouth as a mixer for a martini. If you are a hipster in Spain you are likely to start your evening with one. Vermouth is simply wine, possibly fortified with brandy, plus bitter herbs and roots and the vermouth cocktails are lightened with a little soda water and an orange peel. The beverage is not very intoxicating but more of a subtle taste experience, especially the homemade craft versions I tried. Each Vermouth cocktail was accompanied with a snack like bits of chorizo, fried seafood and traditional jamón iberico.
Here are a few recommendations if you would like to try Spanish vermouth:
For a classic vermouth, try Yzaguirre Rojo from Reus.
It’s the oldest brand still being produced, slightly balsamic in flavors with hints of orange and cinnamon.
An excellent example of reserva vermouth is Miró Reserva Etiqueta Negra also from Reus.
It’s bold and more complex than the basic rojo, with licorice and toasted notes.
For a modern style vermouth, try Luna Reserva from Catalonia.This vermouth is always bottled on the first night of the crescent moon after spending six to nine months in red wine barrels. I t’s fruity yet balanced with hints of juniper and a long aftertaste.