We're eager to taste what's out there in the brave new world of small-batch American-made vermouth. Does it compete with our beloved Dolin Blanc and Carpano Antica, or is it another drink entirely? We were recently sent a sample of of Atsby Vermouth out of New York state, a small-batch aperitif made with North Fork wine and fortified with Finger Lakes apple brandy.
The dry vermouth, called Amberthorn, starts with North Fork Chardonnay steeped with herbs, roots, and spices such as anise, lavender, wild celery, and grapefruit peel, then blended with the apple brandy and a touch of honey. It's hugely aromatic, and quite dry, with an intensely herbal, mentholated flavor. On the rocks, we found the herbs a bit aggressive, but enjoyed the tart acidity. If you like lavender and chamomile in your lemonade, you might be ready to drink this straight. It stands up well to a bit of gin; this is a martini that doesn't need a twist.
Their Armadillo Cake is caramel-colored and a bit spicier-scented. It's made, again, with North Fork chardonnay, but this time the wine is infused with orange peel, nigella seeds, nutmeg, and—get this—shiitake mushrooms, which add a savory hint to the aroma. After filtering, it's mixed with Muscovado caramel and apple brandy. The flavor is deeply spicy, like a mouthful of potpourri, laced with orange oil and clove. Though it's a little overwhelming on its own, it's wildly delicious with a few drops of Campari: slightly bitter and slightly sweet, with just the right spice to get you daydreaming about crisp Autumn nights.