Thursday, July 4, 2019

Gonzalez Byass La Copa Vermouth - What Would Hemingway Do?

"That evening the priest from Henry’s mess comes to visit. He brings some presents for Henry: a mosquito net, a bottle of vermouth, and some English newspapers. Henry invites the priest to share some of the vermouth with him. The priest breaks off the cork on trying to open it and must push the cork down into the bottle. He sees this as a personal disappointment. " Chapter 11 Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms
"'Let's have some vermouth then' I said. 'Tell Bolo to bring out the bottles'. We had the tall glasses with mixed French and Italian vermouth (two parts French to one of Italian, with a dash of bitters and a lemon peel, filled with ice, stir and serve)…" Esquire article, "There She Breaches! or, Moby Dick Off the Morro" published in May 1936
Most characters in Ernest Hemingway's novels were not shy of alcohol and these references often mimicked Hemingway's own preferences in libations. This included an exceedingly Dry Martini with just a splash of Dry Vermouth and the Vermouth Panache - a cocktail featuring dry and sweet vermouths with Angostura Bitters. I thought about these drinks after receiving a sample of two La Copa Vermouths from Gonzalez Byass - both based on original recipes and designs dating back to 1906. The earlier La Copa brand was produced from 1896 to 1926 - so perhaps Hemingway quaffed some of these wines in his early years.

The concept of Vermouth is as old as the Ancient Greeks as Hippocrates mixed wormwood flowers (wormwood = vermout in French) with fraxinella leaves to create an herbal wine. Today Vermouth is known as a low alcohol fortified and aromatized wine produced either dry or sweet. The beverage has been produced in Spain's Jerez region since the 19th century and Gonzalez Byass helped create that older tradition and was an early advocate in Vermouth's current renaissance.

The base for the new La Copa Vermouth is an Oloroso Fino sherry which is produced by oxidative aging. The wine is fortified early, suppressing the flor yeast which typically protects against oxidation. The sweeter La Copa Rojo Vermouth ($24.99) is an eight-year-old blend of 75% Palomino and 25% Pedro Ximénez with traditional botanicals including wormwood, cinnamon, orange peel, and nutmeg. The dry La Copa Blanco Vermouth ($24.99) is made from a base of 100% Palomino aromatized with various herbs, dried fruit, and spices -- including wormwood.

It was initially suggested to sample each of these vermouths over ice which provides a refreshing start to experience these wines. The Rojo shows a nice balance between the fresh aromatics and the bitter-sweet core where the spices continue throughout and provide an unanticipated drier finish. The Blanco is more bitter with the herbal aroma merging into a bitter almond core. And very refreshing.

But what would Hemingway do with these wines? I went to the resident expert on Hemingway's drinking preferences Philip Greene and his To Have and Have Another Revised Edition: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion for cocktail suggestions.

Vermouth Panache
This was easily my favorite cocktail playing with the ratio's where I enjoyed 3-1 dry to sweet instead of the recommended 2-1. Hemingway drank this in tall glasses filled with ice - enjoy all day.
3 oz. Dry Vermouth
1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
1 Dash Angostura Bitters

Hemingway's Dry Gin Martini
I used my special Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin as the base and added a splash of the La Copa Bianco. The botanicals slightly enhance the gin's juniper and honey but expect a solid gin cocktail.
2 oz Dry Gin
Splash Dry Vermouth

Manhattan
I tried to versions the first using the River Hill 100 Proof Bourbon Whiskey and La Copa Rojo to create a high octane and this worked quite well. The vermouth's botanicals seemed to contain the alcohol's heat and made for a pleasant cocktail. In the second version,  I used  Palmetto Whiskey and La Copa Bianco. I also liked this alternative -- lighter in style and didn't require the bitters.
2 oz Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
1 oz Sweet vermouth
2 Dashes Bitters

Hemingway's Josie Russell
This has always been my favorite cocktail, so refreshing and unique. At times I have substituted apple brandy for the cider and that's what a did for numerous iterations using the La Copa Vermouths. My first attempt was using either the Rojo or Bianco with equal or lesser amounts of Falls Church Distillers Apple Brandy and quickly learned that vermouth and apple brandy don't align. I then substituted the cider with vermouth for better results. I found that 2 oz Springfield Manor Patriot Spirit Rum mixed with 1 oz La Copa Rojo creates an interesting spiced rum.
4 ½ oz. Rum
12 oz. Hard Apple Cider
2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice

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