Aperitif and Digestif Tasting

Dolin Vermouth Blanc $15.00

Vermouth is a fortified, aromatized wine; the ingredients are wine, herbs and plants, grape spirit and sugar. The practice of aromatizing wine dates back to the Ancient Greeks. This was formerly done to mask poor wine, or as later to add extra complexity to something already good. It also proved to be an effective form of early, homeopathic medicine. Right up until the 20th century, doctors regularly prescribed Vermouths and aromatized liqueurs for all manner of illness, and many people continue to take a glass per day for medicinal reasons. The process chez Dolin begins with purchase of base wine, always white, light in alcohol (10% by volume), and as neutral as possible, both on the nose and palate. To this is added a selection of herbs and plants, which are left to macerate several months. The exact recipes are a closely guarded secret, but there are up to 54 different plants used, most notably wormwood, but also hyssop, camomile, genepi, chincona bark and rose petals. The aromatized wine is then lightly sugared, to less than 30 g/l for the Dry and 130 g/l for the Blanc and Rouge.

Vya Dry Vermouth $26.00

Made in California’s Central Valley from a blend of dry white wines and Orange Muscat wines, Vya Extra Dry is carefully hand infused at Quady Winery with a selection of over fifteen dried herbs. In Vya Extra Dry the flowers and leaves of the plants are used for the infusion, whereas in the Vya Sweet, the roots and seeds of different plants are used. The flowers and leaves of different plants make Vya Extra Dry powerfully herbaceous, crisp, and refreshing.

Salers Gentiane Liqueur $25.00

Salers Aperitif is a classic French beverage created from the roots of Gentiane Lutea, a wild plant that grows at high altitudes in the Auvergne region of France. The roots are steeped in a neutral alcohol base for several months, which is then distilled with an assortment of herbs and matured in Limousin oak casks. The result is a distinctive bittersweet liqueur with earthy vegetal notes complemented by hints of citrus peel, mint and anise. Enjoy over ice with a squeeze of lemon or in a variety of cocktails.

Contratto Vermouth Rosso $40.00

On the whole, compared to other “antique” (the current recipe dates to circa 1920) vermouths the red Contratto is delicately balanced, granting both intensity of flavor and crystalline elegance. Remarkably, the Rosso and Bianco are roughly identical in terms of perceived sweetness (and analytically they have the same amount of sugar added in the recipe). What changes is the color, of course, and the specific pitch or color of the flavor. Things are a bit heavier here in the rosso, with more gentian and darker bittering elements; still the whole effect is less bitter than, say, Carpano’s Punt y Mes, and equally as well rounded and complex as the legendary Carpano Antica Formula. This new/old red vermouth ought to be a go-to choice in the cellar of any modern mixologist; truly, it occupies a narrow, and beautiful, niche of flavor.

Guillaumette Génépi (375 ml) $39.00

Thomas Bernard-Reymond is one of the few producers to have a permit to pick Genepi flowers within the protected Écrins National Park. He picks the Genepi flowers himself, by hand, supplementing his harvest with a smaller amount he grows himself near his distillery. Based on the harvest, he produces a small amount in the spring and fall, selling to gourmet shops and specialty spirit shops. Though larger distributors and supermarkets have expressed interest, he chooses to stay small and focus on the retailers who understand the passion he puts behind his products.

Génépi is an alpine flower that is used in the base of many herbal aperitif/digistif liqueurs including, we suspect, Chartreuse. Buttery like chamomile and bitter like wormwood, it is complex and refreshing at the same time. Though we love it on its own, it can easily work its way into cocktails as it works beautifully with gin and does amazing things when paired with tequila.

Byrrh Grand Quinquina $23.00

First produced in 1873, Byrrh Grand Quinquina was created by brothers Pallade and Simon Violoet in the small French town of Thuir. Still produced in accordance with the original recipe, Byrrh is created by macerating South America Quinquina, coffee, bitter orange, colombo and cocoa in Muscat Mistelles, which is then matured in oak casks. The fruit-forward wine lends natural sweetness, so no additional sugar is needed, and also provides Byrrh Grand Quinquina with its refreshing balance of fruit and spice

Bittermens Hiver Amer (375 ml) $32.00

Sometimes you discover something amazing purely by accident. When Bittermens was first working on the recipe for the Amère Nouvelle, we had a bit of a slip up on one of their early prototypes. Basically, due to a dropped decimal point, they put in ten times too much cinnamon. The interesting thing was that it worked. It wasn’t a bitter orange and gentian liqueur like the Amère Nouvelle was designed to be, but it was pretty darned good. They thought that it would work well in winter cocktails or mulled wine applications and started toying with the name “Hiver Amer” – The Winter Bitter.

Bittermens Baska Snaps $45.00

Throughout Scandinavia, it’s tradition to take high proof aquavit, infuse it with bitter herbs, then drink it during the holidays and the long, cold winter that follows. To keep this tradition alive, Bittermens formulated Baska Snaps – a classic bitter spirit they created by infusing aquavit with licorice, citrus and other botanicals. It was then blended with a touch of sugar and combined with a wormwood distillate produced by the famed Distillerie Les Fils d’Emile Pernot. Serve cold.

Contratto Vermouth Fernet $48.00

33 Herbs are employed in seasoning this digestif. Just add espresso, or soda water, or cola, or drink it straight, or… Fernet is a type of amaro, a bitter, that falls under the category aromatic spirit. Fernet is made from a number of herbs and spices which include myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and especially saffron, with a base of grape distilled spirits, and colored with caramel coloring.  Fernet may be served as a digestif after a meal but may also be served with coffee and espresso or mixed as a cocktail.

Fernet Branca $29.00

Designed to be consumed as a post-prandial digestivo and renowned for its alleged powers at countering the effects of overindulging at the dinner table, Fernet Branca is flavored with around 40 roots, herbs, spices and other ingredients, including gentian, myrrh, chamomile and saffron. Redolent with the herbaceous aroma of menthol and eucalyptus, Fernet Branca has a bitter complexity that is jarring on first experience, and bracingly alluring with each subsequent encounter.  While many drinkers may first taste Fernet Branca as a late-night dare in a crowded bar, the liqueur has many dedicated fans who adore its firm slap to the palate. Fernet Branca has long been popular in Argentina, where it is often mixed with Coke, and domestically the liqueur has countless fans in the bar and restaurant industry, particularly in San Francisco. Bartenders in that city sometimes refer to a shot of Fernet Branca (often served with a chaser of ginger ale or ginger beer) as a “bartender’s handshake,” and such is the liqueur’s resonance with the local food industry that recently Andrew Mitchell, a bartender at Rickhouse, designed a cocktail made with Fernet Branca and ginger, which he dubbed the Restaurateur.

Montenegro Amaro $30.00

This renowned Italian liqueur is prepared according to the traditional recipe, which has been secretly guarded for over a century. Only the rarest and most prized herbs from around the world are chosen to create this spirit, which create the elegant aroma and distinctive flavors of Montenegro Amaro. Fresh notes of orange peel, coriander and red cherry on the nose lead to a bittersweet, botanical palate with hints of tangerine. The finish displays a bold herbal note complemented by sweet citrus fruit.

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