There seems to be little doubt about it. Just about every discerning vermouth drinker will agree – Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth is not only the best sweet vermouth on earth but the only vermouth for those who enjoy a truly superior Manhattan.
Available in limited quantities and still sold in numbered blown-glass bottles, Carpano was the original vermouth, with a recipe created by Antonio Benedetto Carpano in 1786. Legend has it that Carpano, an assistant in a liquor shop in 18th century Turin, had such success with his creation that the shop had to remain open 24 hours a day! And it is still made to the original recipe and bearing a facsimile of the original label.
Like practically all vermouth – even the red sweet ones – Carpano Antica Formula has a white wine base. Made with “Piedmont’s muscatel and the rich wines of southern Italy” – possibly trebbiano – it is infused with over 30 carefully selected brewed mountain herbs and fortified with spirit (grappa would be a good guess).
The bouquet has a pungent sweetness with hints of vanilla, dried fruits and orange peel. On the palate it is dark and complex, both sweet and bitter and rich in flavors of figs, dates, caramel, cinnamon, star anise and orange zest.
How to serve Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth? For me, the easiest and most delightful way is also the most simple – pour it over ice, add a slice, sit back and enjoy. Then there are the classic cocktails – the Manhattan being the original and most popular in the U.S. My aficionadofriends tell me that quality rye is the best whiskey to mix with sweet vermouth, bitters and a cherry. Others tell me that the quality of the whiskey matters less, as long as the vermouth is first class. Either way Carpano fits the bill. The Negroni cocktail seems to be gaining in popularity again – gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. And also its cousin the Americano – Campari, sweet vermouth, seltzer and an orange wedge.
No matter how you decide to serve it make sure it is well chilled. Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth is now available at select ABC stores.
Bill Stobbs, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinebills