In praise of vermouth
December 9th, 2013
08:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

When it comes to the contest for “least respected, most versatile alcohol in the world,” there’s no question that vermouth has a fair shot at the prize. Without it, there would be no Manhattans, no martinis, and (as if things could get any worse) no Negronis - the latter somehow having become the cool-kid cocktail of the season, in addition to being just plain great.
Cocktails aside, good vermouth can also be delicious poured straight over an ice cube or two. But what is the stuff, actually? The first clue comes from the name, vermouth, a French bastardization of the Old High German wermuota, or wormwood, an aromatic ingredient once used to flavor it (and absinthe, too).
There are two main styles, sweet (originally Italian) and dry (originally French). Both are made with wine that has been infused with herbs, roots, spices and other botanical ingredients; the specific recipes are usually secret. These days most brands make both styles. Because vermouth is wine-based, it should be kept in the refrigerator after it is opened, and will last for two to three months before losing its character (use what’s left for cooking).
Noilly Prat and Martini & Rossi tend to dominate store shelves, along with Cinzano. All are fine for everyday use. Recently, though, there’s been an explosion of new brands, as well as higher-end offerings from the big names, some of which are extraordinarily good. Here are five that would make great gifts this season.

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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Spirits • Wine

Coffee klatsch
December 9th, 2013
05:00 AM ET
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