Monday, November 25, 2019

Vermouth Review: Punt e Mes

Punt e Mes has a (potentially fanciful) history going back to 1870. More important to us today, it was one of the vermouths whose reintroduction alongside stablemate Carpano Antica to the States in during the 2000s was a sign of the cocktail revival.

Personally it was the first vermouth that made me stand up and take notice of it. Before that I had tried sweet vermouths like Vya and Dolin, but none of them really clicked for me. Punt e Mes was what made me go down the rabbit hole and has been the vermouth that I keep coming back to.

Punt e Mes

Nose: dark grape and raisin aromas, herbal and woody notes hiding in the background

Taste: big creamy grape sweetness up front, a crisp citrus twinge around the middle, fading into clean quinine bitterness

Finish: lingering quinine bitterness with a touch of grape

While it doesn't have a lot in the way of complexity, Punt e Mes makes up for it in clear, bold flavors. It has the heft to hold its own against other strong ingredients like Campari, giving a solid bass note to drinks. So while I wouldn't say that it's the best or more complex vermouth available right now, I continue to buy it because it provides such a good foundation for cocktails. The bitterness is clear without being overwhelming, though I can imagine that folks less used to bitter drinks might not agree with me on that last point.

Punt e Mes makes for a big, beefy Negroni. The nose is dominated by the lemon peel and gin, with the other components suppressed as long as the drink stays cold. The sip opens sweetly, but is quickly joined by the gin's bitterness in the middle, which unfolds into more layers of bitterness from the Campari and vermouth. The finish is long and lingers, primarily with quinine from the Punt e Mes.

Honestly, this is a great vermouth. If you've ever wanted more punch to your vermouth-driven drinks, I highly recommend getting a bottle. It also has the advantage of being semi-ubiquitous if you live in a larger metro area. While I can't find it at Safeway yet (though they do have Lillet), most of the higher end grocery stores carry it.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Long Time, No See

Folks who follow me on Twitter may have caught me discussing the concussion I suffered in early July. While I initially thought that it was going to be a minor thing that I would bounce back from in a few days or a week, I was out of work for five weeks straight and worked part time for most of another month. Even after that, I had some lingering symptoms and reactivated a number of them about a month ago.

Through all of that, one common thread has been that alcohol was a bad idea. Even a sip was enough to provoke pressure in my head if not a full-blown headache. Given the long period of recovery and regular setbacks, I've been extremely wary about getting back into drinking regularly. Though I am still experiencing some post-concussion symptoms, alcohol no longer seems to be the immediate trigger that it was, so I have been cautiously dipping my toe back into the water.

Given the rather central place that drinking has had in my life, whether that's sipping a scotch for a review, mixing up a daiquiri on the weekend, or having an Americano while I cook, being forced to completely forego all of that for months has been a real experience. Especially at home where I have shelves and closets stuffed with bottles, knowing that even a little bit would cause me pain was a real emotional struggle. To be clear, I don't have any worries about alcoholism or physical dependence, it was the simple fact that I had to give up something that brings me a lot of joy on top of feeling lousy and not knowing when it might get better.

I'm not sure that constitutes a major epiphany, but I do feel like it spotlights the upsides of alcohol that go beyond its effects. In our current health-conscious world, much of the discussion around alcohol focuses on its downsides, whether physical or mental. But the enjoyment of a good drink can be one of the real pleasures in life that is practically impossible to replicate in any other way. Here's to many years of enjoyment, in moderation.