Summer is the perfect time to acquaint yourself with the newest addition to our little family of wines from the Savoie: Dolin Vermouths.
Dolin has been making vermouth in Chambéry, France since 1821. Vermouth de Chambéry is actually the only AOC for vermouth in France, and Dolin is the last remaining independent Vermouth de Chambéry producer. Dolin starts with a light base white wine (no more than 10% alcohol) and then fortifies with sugar and infuses it with dozens of the local Alpine plants that grow in the hills above Chambéry.
The name vermouth comes from the High German “Wermout,” meaning wormwood. Wormwood, or artemisia absinthium, is a leafy herb and is used as a flavoring ingredient in spirits, bitters, and vermouths, most famously Absinthe.
In addition to wormwood, Dolin uses over 50 other plants, roots and barks to make their vermouth. All of these ingredients are steeped in their natural form in a wine base for up to three months. This use of actual plants sets Dolin apart from many larger and more industrial producers of vermouth, who tend to use pre-made infusions and extracts. Dolin’s exact recipes are secret, but we do know for sure that they use quina bark, hyssop, chamomile and rose petals. Some other likely Alpine suspects include elderflower, thyme, dandelion and gentian.
Staff members love all three of Dolin’s little beauties: Rouge, Blanc and Dry. Each is delicious in its own way. The Dry is classically herbal and green-grassy. In a staff tasting, we picked out notes of stone fruit, tarragon or hyssop and lemony herbs like lemon balm or verbena. We love this one in cocktails, especially martinis. The Rouge, red from the caramelization of its sugar, is a little sweet with hints of clove, thyme and chestnut honey. Two of our New Englanders said it tastes like Moxie! We especially like this one in Manhattans. The Blanc was everyone’s favorite, super light and fresh, sweet but balanced with notes of minerals, lemon thyme and citrus peels. This one is perfect on the rocks with a twist of orange or lemon, preferably imbibed outdoors in the sun. We also like to use the Blanc and the Dry in the Pompier Highball mentioned below.
Recently, I was visiting Drink in the Fort Point area of Boston and spotted a bottle of Dolin Dry behind the bar. I asked head bartender, John Gertsen, what he likes to use it for. John said, “The Dry is especially useful in classic cocktails where dry vermouth and liqueurs are used together in the same drink. The Rouge is great in gin cocktails, especially the Hearst (gin, vermouth, Angostura bitters, orange bitters, lemon oil). I am fond of the Blanc on its own, but also like it with tequila.” See below for an original tequila and vermouth sipper that John came up with last year.
We like to pair all these alpine herbal beauties with their local cheeses, Tomme de Savoie and Tome des Bauges with the Dry and Comté or Morbier with the Rouge and the Blanc. We’ve also enjoyed sipping on all three vermouths with Bergkäse Alpenblumen, a smooth, sweet cows’ milk cheese covered with Alpine herbs that mirror those used in the vermouth.
In our South End location, we currently stock 375mL bottles of all three vermouths, and 750mL bottles of the Dry. Once opened, keep your vermouth in the fridge. At refrigerator temperatures, your open bottle should keep for months, so you can pour a little at a time whenever the mood strikes you.
The Pompier Highball or Vermouth Cassis
“The average Frenchman … combines his plain and fancy drinking to 3 grooves, 2 of which are the eternal wine with meals, and to stimulate hunger. This Pompier Highball falls into the latter class, and besides all this it is very cooling and refreshing, has a sharp tangy taste due to the herbs and simples in the vermouth. Take ½ jigger of French dry vermouth and the same of crème de cassis. Put in a couple of lumps of ice and fill the glass with club soda or seltzer. Serve in a tall, thin glass and fill only ¾ full, please.”
- The Gentleman’s Companion by Charles H. Baker Jr.
John Gertsen’s “El Brioso” 1.5 oz blanco Tequila
.5 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
.5 oz Campari
.5 oz Crème Yvette
orange bitters and orange oil
Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, give a shake and strain into a pretty little glass.
Julie Cappellano is the General Manager and wine buyer at Formaggio Kitchen South End, Boston.