Like pious priests baptizing converts at their spirituous fonts, by the time we got to the middle of the 19th century, barkeeps were sprinkling wine everywhere. Long a frequent addition to punches, mid-century tipplers of means were sipping the ubiquitous Champagne Cocktail and its variants and even adding what became known as “the Claret snap” to sours, thereby creating the New York Sour.
At about this same time there was a ship’s hold of invaders crossing the Atlantic and getting ready to take American bars by storm. In 1850 three Italian guys were revamping a formula that would ultimately have as much an impact on mixology as the invention of the barstool. A variety of aromatic herbs and spices along with a dollop or two of neutral spirits were added to wine and presto! – Sweet Vermouth. Not to be outdone by the Italians, some French folks followed with their own not-so-sweet aromatized wine using white wine and viola!–Dry Vermouth. Once they both washed up onto the shores of the American bar, these innovative aperitifs promptly became a part of the 19th century mixological tool chest.
It was just a matter of time that some barkeep or other would take the basic cocktail archetype and splash some Italian vermouth in it to create the Manhattan. Well, heck, if the Italian stuff works with brown spirits, what would happen if the French stuff is added to white spirits? We would have a Martini, that’s what would happen. The exact origins of both are a matter of historical if not hysterical speculation, but though the names have remained largely steady, their formulae have been downright Darwinian.
The Archetypal Mix
Spirit, Sweet, Spice, Water, and Vermouth
This is nothing more than the Cocktail Archetype with the addition of a weak strong: vermouth. The spice has been any variation of bitters ever developed. The sweet got lost from some of the most famous drinks in this category, but manages to make appearances from time to time in other drinks in the form of liqueurs and cordials. An argument can be made that the vermouth doubles as a sort of “sweet” entry – but I may be stretching the point. The water tends to come strictly from melted ice.
Some common or classic drinks that fit the
Vermouth Cocktail Archetype
Manhattan, Martini, Rob Roy, Gibson, Martinez, Bijou, Bobby Burns, Bronx Cocktail, Brooklyn Cocktail, Negroni, Blood and Sand, and Vesper.