Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Vermouth and The Savoy Cocktail Book

Regular readers will possibly have picked up on my affection for 'The Savoy Cocktail Book', it took me a while to commit to buying it (and when I finally decided it wasn't a gimmicky sort of thing but a book I needed it was between printings, which was annoying) but it's turned out to be really useful.

I have a few (reprints of) classic cocktail books which I use quite a lot. They're really good at taking you back to basics and providing an excellent set of tools for understanding how cocktails work. The Savoy book is the most comprehensive of the ones I've found, and has thoroughly earned it's classic status.

There's definitely some rubbish in there, and it can be light on detail - possibly because there's an assumption that readers will know certain things which are no longer common knowledge. Crucially though it underscores the difference proportions make - a little more, or less, of something and it has a different name - sometimes this feels like a bit of a swindle, but when it comes to mixing vermouth into something it makes a real difference (initially it surprised me how much). The other surprise was that I would like two drinks equally as much, but for entirely different reasons based on the proportion of vermouth in them.

The second thing that The Savoy book does is encourage you to mix different types of vermouth together. I wouldn't think of mixing anything else in quite this way (I wouldn't mix a peated and unpeated whisky, or a gin with a flavoured gin, or a red wine with a white etc, so it does feel a bit odd). You live and learn.

Without this book I probably wouldn't have bothered with 'Italian' (as far as I can work out this meant red/Rosso in the 1930s) Vermouth, which turns out to be the style I'm most excited by. That's partly because of a total lack of enthusiasm for Campari and by extension, Negroni's which currently has to be the most popular cocktail on the block. I really do like Manhattans though. And I'm becoming fairly committed to iterations of Gin and 'It'.

This is also a great book to take on a family holiday where drinking is likely (I took it up to my father's this summer which was definitely fun). A home, or holiday, bar that has Gin, a blended whisky, a couple of vermouth's, a bottle of bitters, and maybe a triple sec or similar along with a whole lot of citrus fruit will give you plenty of options. A pre dinner cocktail is an excellent holiday tradition.


  1. I do like the idea of a pre-prandial cocktail - very 1920s!

    1. Me too, in moderation (so probably not every day) it's a very civilised habit. It has become a bit of a holiday ritual when I'm at my father's.