Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gallo Dry Vermouth

You don't know how special this is to me. You see, I had Gallo Dry Vermouth long before I even considered starting this blog-- almost exactly a year ago, my roommate and girlfriend and I decided we need to try some martinis for the first time (despite drinking them out of rocks glasses) but also didn't want to spend much money on a bottle of vermouth we figured we'd only be using for accent.

So we got Gallo. This was before I knew about the horrors that they made (Thunderbird, Night Train), and before I had any idea what vermouth was actually supposed to taste like.

We had made a huge mistake.
Even bigger than accidentally meeting your son.
Suffice it to say, our cocktails for that night were just us drink martini out of highball glasses and watching six hours of Dexter. And that a while later, when my roommate was so smashed that we had to hide the Wild Turkey (he actually thought drinking more Turkey was a good idea) he still took one gulp of the leftover vermouth and put it right the fuck back in the fridge. The only good thing that ever came of that bottle was that it was okay for cooking sweet onions.

So, let's see if my first encounter (aside from the obligatory college student meeting with Aristocrat) with low-grade gutrot still holds up.

John Hodgman says that you can remember which vermouth is which by the fact that Italians have red blood and the French bleed a sort of clear-green lymph color. In which case I guess Californians that I hate must be very French-like with a hormonal imbalance, because this is actually a very faint yellow.
Ernest Gallo.
It's incredibly light in color, though, and the glass is actually tinted very faintly to make it look green. It's more the color of old plaster or faintly faded paper than an actual wine flavor.

The aroma here is incredibly faint. Now, I drink a lot more sweet vermouth (I'm a sucker for Manhattans, the girl even more so), but what dry I've had is supposed to have a much stronger aroma than this. Unless you're some French bastard who orders a little glass after dinner, vermouth is supposed to be used as a (small) supplement to a couple hard dollops of booze. The aroma of this one is as fey and inoffensive as--shit, I don't know. I don't notice things that are fey and inoffensive. I really just set myself up for failure with that metaphor.
"Okay Haley, we're to the part where we just piss all over Kubrick's headstone. You ready?"
Welp, since I did just insult them let's see if the French know what the hell they're talking about (spoiler alert: the French never know what they're talking about).
"Iiiiii'm Charles Baudelaire, Iiiii hate lesbians for not sleeping with me, wah wah waaaaaah."
Joe (the roommate) fairly accurately summed up the flavor as "everything I hate about white wine." And let me tell you, the dude hates a lot about white wine. He bleeds Chianti and I'm pretty sure his bones are made of pasta. He only likes white wine when you're cooking clams in it. When he walks into a room, Dean Martin starts playing. He once stomped a guy to death to a Donovan song.
Pictured: my roommate.
And while I honestly prefer white (as if the hate speech didn't tip you off) the guy is right. This doesn't even taste like vermouth, it tastes like spoiled white wine with herbs soaked in it. It's really sweet (sweeter than the actual sweet vermouth I have), and actually has kind of that good old Thunderbird flavor to its pungency and fruitiness. The herbs only exist in the aftertaste, and even then it tastes more like you just mixed in a ramen flavoring packet with your hobo wine.

I recently made some herb-infused vodka (take about eight basil leaves, some mixed peppercorns and a sprig of rosemary and soak 'em in a bottle's worth of Smirnoff for a couple days). It tastes pretty good, I think-- kind of has the botanical flavors of gin but is smoother and has a really mellow burn. Since that should pack the herbal dryness that this vermouth so badly lacks, I've decided to make a cocktail out of them. Since it's very similar to gin in some of the flavors, it should make a good modified martini. Since it's made of plants, I call it...THE SWAMP THING.
Alan Moore's Swamp Thing only thought that it was human. This only thinks that it's a real cocktail. Also, it's gross.
So how does the Swamp Thing fare? Does it kick as much ass as it did in the 80's? Does it invent John Constantine? Does it lead to a giant bearded warlock on acid somehow becoming the most respected artist in his field?

Of course not. How could you think that? Jesus christ, you people are fucking idiots. No, it pretty much tastes like that yummy herb vodka I made but with an added sweetness that completely goes against everything a martini should be. It actually starts pretty strong--the actual herbal component of the vermouth brings out the pepper in the vodka--but the wine flavor, that goddamn too-sweet wine flavor that clings to Gallo like they were goddamn asymptomatic carriers for the fucking superflu, it just lurches in pissing and squealing into an otherwise nice drink.

Gallo dry does to cocktails what Karen O does to motel rooms.
Don't ever buy this. This falls into the very rare category (alongside Banana Nirvana) of not even for the alcohol. There's very little reason to own dry vermouth apart from making distinguished cocktails, and if you're in the "let's spend five bucks on this instead of 6.50 on something better" mindset you're as stupid as I was last year. Just no. No. No. No.


  1. Actually this vermouth is one of only two recommended by Cooks Illustrated Magazine. The other is the classic Noilly Prat.