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I went to college in the land of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and my drinking sensibility starts there. A dirty martini with three big olives has always been one of my top three classic cocktails, and so a good dry vermouth has been in my life for as long as it’s been legally allowed. Cinzano has been making its Italian vermouth since 1757, and I’m 41 now, so let’s just say we’ve been friends for kind of a long time. And let’s just say that when I had the opportunity to create a new cocktail as part of Cinzano’s upcoming Respect the Drink project, I felt like I’d been training for this opportunity for half my life.
Cinzano has so many cool parts to its 250+ year story, but one of my favorites is their history of using great artwork in their campaigns. Back at the end of the 19th century, in the early days of advertising, only Italy’s best brands could afford to work with artists and illustrators. Cinzano was one of them, and they produced some pretty spectacular imagery beginning in the Belle Époque and evolving alongside pop culture from then on.
Cool, right? (Also, how fabulous to consider a time when artists and illustrators commanded such a high price. But anyhoo.)
In addition to digging vermouth, I am also a tried and true gin girl. The other two of my top three classic cocktails are Gin and Tonics and Negronis, so. Vermouth and gin are not just a single match made in heaven, but actually a series of beautiful matches that look, taste, and feel very different from each other, depending on which type of vermouth you choose. For my new cocktail, The Aficionado, I chose to pair gin with Cinzano’s Extra Dry Vermouth.
What is Vermouth?
Good question. Vermouth is a fortified and aromatized wine. Fortified means that a neutral, distilled grape spirit has been added to the wine to increase its alcohol content. Aromatized means the recipe includes herbs and spices. And you know what wine means. 🙂
Vermouth comes in several varieties, including:
Rosso/Sweet/Vermouth di Torino: A sweet vermouth that gets its amber color from a rich infusion of herbs and spices and is iconic in Manhattans, Negronis, and more
Dry/Extra Dry: A delicately flavored, nearly clear vermouth found in dry cocktails like Martinis
Bianco: A sweet white vermouth with a bigger flavor that’s common to drink either alone as an apéritif or in cocktails
What’s an Aficionado?
Another good question, my friend. An aficionado is someone very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity, subject, or pastime. The dictionary stops there, but I think of an aficionado as quite enjoying being an aficionado, too. That’s kind of a fun combination of ways of being — and one that seems right at home in the worlds of both classic and modern cocktails — so I went right ahead and named a drink after it. The Aficionado is great at any time of year, right now being no exception. So says one in the know.
Talk to you soon.
The Aficionado Cocktail
This simple but sophisticated cocktail is great any time of year.
- 1 large, juicy lemon
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon mild honey
- 2 ounces good gin
- 1 ounce Cinzano Extra Dry Vermouth
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes until very hot. Cut the lemon in half and then cut a 1/4-inch-thick round slice from one half. Place the lemon halves and the slice into the pan cut sides down and cook for about three to four minutes, until nicely charred. Remove lemon from pan and add thyme sprig. Cook for about a minute, until fragrant, then set aside to cool.
Squeeze juice from lemon halves through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Measure out 1 1/2 ounces juice, reserving any extra for another use. Stir honey into lemon juice until dissolved.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in lemon juice mixture, gin and Vermouth and shake well. Place a few ice cubes into a single old fashioned glass and pour drink into glass. Garnish with lemon slice and thyme sprig.