Summer Cocktail Craze

5 top bars to sip Austin's hottest summer cocktail craze

5 top bars to sip Austin's hottest summer cocktail craze

Alessio vermouth Rosita Cocktail drink
Make your own vermouth cocktail and try this version of a Rosita at home. Photo by Matt McGinnis

Vermouth is a light, refreshing drink that is perfect to sip during summer. Whether you choose red or white, sweet or dry, it has both a depth and complexity that makes it a delight to drink on its own or in an excellent cocktail.

Let's burn down the tired trope that vermouth is only for old ladies and mixers. It's true that vermouth is great in a lot of fantastic classic cocktails like the Negroni, the martini, and the Manhattan, but it is delicious all on its own. Originally made to serve straight as an aperitif or digestif, that's exactly how you could be sipping it this summer: just chill, pour, and drink.

It's time to grab a fresh bottle vermouth or head to one of Austin's top bars for a refreshing new summer sip.

What is vermouth?
The reason you should throw away a perfectly good bottle of vermouth that is half full is because vermouth is made with wine. You would never drink a glass of wine after leaving an open bottle sitting around for a few months, would you? It loses its flavor and gets oxidized.

Vermouth lasts a little bit longer than normal wine because it's fortified with spirits to stabilize. Its distinct taste comes from the Artemisia herb (also known as wormwood), the main flavoring ingredient in absinthe. Each type of vermouth has its own blend of other aromatic herbs in a range of dry to sweet styles.

Once open, keep vermouth in the fridge and it will retain its flavor for about three weeks. Consider buying 350-milliliter bottles if you don't want to waste any.

Which vermouth should I drink?
Vermouth has grown in popularity in the U.S. in recent years, making it easier to find high-quality brands at bars, restaurants, and shops. A few good brands to look for include Primitivo Quiles and Yzaguirre from Spain; Dolin and Nouilly Prat from France; and CarpanoCarpano AnticaCinzano, and Cocchi from Italy.

We recommend starting with Alessio Vermouth made in Italy. This family of vermouths from the Tempus Fugit Spirits company are fairly new to Texas, but incredibly easy to find at most wine shops and good bars around the state — specifically Austin Wine Merchant, Spec's, and Twin Liquors. The Alessio Vermouth Bianco is made for easy summer sipping, with a fortified white wine base, lively citrus and grapefruit, sweet spices, mild bitterness, and a lovely sweetness on the finish. It has 18-percent ABV and sells for about $23 for a 750 milliliter bottle.

Kick back with a Vino di Moda (fashion wine) chilled in a white wine glass or mixed as a classic cocktail. Better yet, try it in this version of the Rosita, served up:

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 1 ounce Alessio Vermouth Bianco
  • 1 ounce Gran Classic Bitter

Where can I drink vermouth in Austin?
There are several great places in Austin that have a fine selection of vermouth. Here are a few to check out:

Juliet Ristorante
Juliet boasts the largest selection of vermouth and fortified wine in town — 20 different kinds of vermouth, to be exact.

Small Victory
With 10 types on the menu, including Alessio, Small Victory is an excellent place to taste several styles of sweet and dry vermouth.

Backbeat
The relatively new South Austin hotspot carries nine types of vermouth from five different producers and three countries.

Italic
This downtown Italian restaurant and bar has five types of vermouth on the menu, which come served as an aperitif or in a cocktail.

The Roosevelt Room
One of Austin’s most celebrated bars stocks five different vermouths and six other fortified or aromatized wines similar to vermouth.