From the May/June 2011 issue
For too long vermouth has been ignored by American tipplers.
Often thought of as a pale-colored, somewhat weak-kneed cousin to more traditional spirits, most people are unfamiliar with how it’s made, or the richly flavorful qualities it is capable of. In fact, vermouth can be highly aromatic and satisfying, both as a drink on its own or as a mixer. After all, vermouth is wine fortified with spirits to which various herbs and botanicals are added as an infusion—lots to smell and taste. Typically, vermouth is made as dry (white) or sweet (red).
Well, now you can add “bittersweet” to the categories of vermouth thanks to the efforts of Oregonians Neil Kopplin, Derek Einberger, and Jennifer Kilfoil. Using Oregon Pinot Gris as their wine base, and adding brandy from Clear Creek Distillery that they aged in barrels with a mélange of infused herbs, they introduced at the end of 2010 their own boutique vermouth called Imbue.
They purposefully strove for a product that had bold flavors—
”not your grandmother’s vermouth,” as they like to say—and which they found simply delicious. After months of testing different herbs soaked in wine (including in their final mix elderflower, coriander, clove, sage, and others) to discover what seemed to work best, they settled on a formula, gained federal approvals, and launched Imbue.
Just as regional Northwest distillers are beginning to redefine the flavor profile of many classic spirits, like gin and whiskey, so the creators of Imbue seem to be re-jiggering what traditional vermouth is all about. How Northwest of them!