NV Cocchi Vermouth di Torino

Hello friends. One of the restrictions in Washington’s liquor-privatization initiative was square footage: a retailer has to have 10,000 or more square feet in order to sell spirits. The purpose was purportedly to keep hard alcohol from being sold at gas stations, and unfortunately smaller-square-footage retailers like Full Pull got caught in the baleen of this clunky solution (I sent an inquiry to the WSLCB about whether this meant I could start selling Unleaded through a pump behind the tasting bar. Answer forthcoming, I’m sure.)

So for the time being, there will be no artisanal spirits flowing through Full Pull, but that doesn’t mean we can’t play on occasion in the realm of the great cocktails of the world:

This is an incredible beverage, one of the most eye-opening, revelatory drinks I had in 2012.

Think about how much we obsess about the type of whiskey in our Manhattans or the gin in our Negronis, and then think about how much mental effort we give to Vermouth.

Why sully a beautiful spirit with a pedestrian mixer? It doesn’t make sense, except for the fact that most of us have little choice. Most stores sell one crappy vermouth, and so that’s what we all use.

That was certainly true for me, until I tasted Cocchi at the end of an Italian import tasting last year. It exploded the entire idea of this category in my mind, and a bottle of Cocchi Vermouth has been in my house at all times since. Yes, it will seriously elevate the cocktails mentioned above (you’ll never go back), but for me, it is more frequently mixed with nothing more than a couple ice cubes and then downed as one of the world’s great aperitifs or digestifs. It’s a thrilling drink all by itself.

Now, a quick primer on Vermouth. There are only two protected geographical indications of origin for Vermouth: “Vermouth de Chambery” (in France) and “Vermouth di Torino” (in Italy). To put either of those phrases on the bottle requires stringent adherence to production standards, and you’ll notice that most Vermouths sold in the US do not carry either of those phrases.

Vermouth is wine that has been fortified (here to 16% alc) and aromatized. The fortification happens with neutral grape spirits, and the aromatization happens by steeping dry ingredients with the fortified wine in barrel until the aromas and flavors have been absorbed. The combination of dry ingredients is what makes each individual Vermouth distinctive, and so the best producers pursue extreme secrecy for their recipes.

In this case, Cocchi has celebrated their 120th anniversary by reintroducing the original (1891) recipe of founder Giulio Cocchi. It starts with Moscato (no surprise, given Cocchi’s location in Asti) and layers on the aromatics from there.

The first thing you notice when tasting this is that it seems both sweeter and more bitter than your average Vermouth. The intensity is ramped way up across all sensory axes, like going from candlelight to phosphorescence. Rhubarb, grapefruit bitters, cocoa powder, rosemary, lilac are just a few of the endlessly complex array of flavors. There is a wonderful medicinal quality to the palate. It’s a beverage for grown-ups, no doubt, and this particular grown-up can’t get enough of it.

First come first served up to 3 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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