In my attempts to ease back into cocktails and alcohol in general I went searching for low alcohol drinks that were made mostly with vermouth. Thankfully I was gifted a copy of The Art of the Shim a few years ago, which I had largely forgotten about when I was primarily drinking neat spirits.
While perhaps apocryphal, the suggestion is that this drink was meant to provide diplomats with something delicious to sip without getting them so deep in their cups that they let the wrong words slip out in front of the wrong people. Whether or not that's true, it absolutely gets the job done.
1.5 oz dry vermouth0.5 oz sweet vermouth
0.25 oz maraschino liqueur
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients, stir with ice for ten seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a strip of lemon peel.
The nose is a pleasant melange of richness from the sweet vermouth, spices from the bitters, and funk from the maraschino, plus some background sourness from the dry vermouth. The sip opens in a balanced fashion between sweet and tart, a pleasantly citrus and apple flavor in the middle, slowly fading into complex bitterness and increasing tartness towards the back. The finish leans into the dry vermouth, with some pleasant bitterness.
This is an incredibly pleasant drink. It makes me think of a reverse Manhattan/Martini style cocktail where a small amount of a more robust spirit is used to modify the base vermouth, but in this case the modifier is also vermouth. As recommended in Shim, you really want a big, robust sweet vermouth - I used Cocchi di Torino, but Carpano Antica or Punt e Mes could work just as well. In tandem with the maraschino they're enough to round out the more tart dry vermouth without completely overwhelming it. The result is refreshing while maintaining a very classic spirit-based profile. Overall I would highly recommend this if you want a full cocktail experience without taxing your liver.