Little City Vermouth is a new product in a category which is just begging for more variety. After all, three of the most iconic cocktails in the world call for it (Martini, Manhattan & Negroni). I asked Will Clark, the owner of New York State’s Little City how he became interested in crafting vermouth.
“First I got into cocktails. I began collecting bottles and inventing drinks. In an effort to create cocktails with more unique character I began making my own ingredients—syrups, shrubs, infusions. I had been exploring vermouth, sipping it on its own and relying on it heavily in many of my drinks. From a mixologist perspective, I was intrigued by vermouth. In a way, it’s like a pre-made cocktail, a combination of herbs, liquor and sugar. And it’s a diverse category with much room for experimentation and personal expression. I began making my own vermouth in my Harlem apartment. I played with different methods of extraction, different blending processes. I researched the history of vermouth—which is as old as wine itself—and tried to track down every botanical that had ever been used in vermouth. The possible flavor combinations are endless. Eventually, I was making vermouth that I preferred to anything I could buy in the store. I would drink it on it’s own and put it in almost every cocktail. I shared it with a few bartender and restaurant owner friends of mine and got positive responses. They said that if I could sell it to them legally, they would buy it. That “legally” part is more easily said than done.”
Will continued, “I searched throughout New York State to find a producer that would work with me to make this vermouth just how I wanted it made. Because vermouth is a blend of wine and spirit, and because vermouth is considered wine by the federal government and spirit by the New York state government, licensing is a bit tricky. Of the distilleries and wineries that I spoke with, Finger Lakes Distilling was the most willing to take on the challenges of production and compliance on my terms. They are experts at what they do, and they were excited to lend their vast knowledge to my project without forcing me to change my recipe. They liked what I already had, and they wanted to help me bring it to market. Now it’s here.”
I asked Will what kind of wine is used in his sweet & dry vermouths. “Both Little City Vermouths are built on a base of Cayuga White wine. Cayuga White is a cross of Schuyler and Seyval Blanc grapes that was developed at Cornell University in an effort to create a grape that would grow well in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. And it does grow well there. And that’s where we get it. Specifically, it comes from Glenora Wine Cellars, just across Seneca Lake from Finger Lakes Distilling.”
Little City Dry (17.5% abv) With 38 botanicals, this vermouth is very citrus forward on the entry, with a lime character. A bit tart and zippy. The wine character comes through after this, followed by a softer and mellow herb flavor. There is a slight bitterness to the whole affair, which is how it should be. Overall, quite well-balanced and fruity. GSN Rating: B+
Little City Sweet (16.5% abv) Using 53 botanicals, the sweet has a smokey, almost tea like flavor at first, lightened with a burnt sugar character. The herbs are complex with a floral, spicy and semi-bitter edge. The wine serves more as a delivery system here than showing up with any real presence, but it works well as a canvas to the blend of botanicals. Very nice and well-rounded. GSN Rating: A-
For more information go to: Little City Vermouth