Vya Vermouth to Whet Your Appetite
With the cocktail renaissance in full swing, it is no longer a surprise to see all sorts of new locally made spirits, bitters and liqueurs popping up at liquor stores and bars. Recently, this spirit of innovation reached the world of aperitifs. Where once the only options were a few dusty bottles from Europe, now it is common to see several new varieties of vermouth, all featuring new and exciting flavor combinations.
Given California’s history of innovation, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the leaders in this generation of vermouths is Vya Vermouth, made by Andrew Quady of Quady Winery in Madera, California. All the way back in 1999, Quady started making Vya Vermouth to give American consumers the same quality vermouth that he had experienced in Europe.
“Since visiting Europe, where it is very popular as an aperitif, I was always fascinated by Europeans’ embrace of vermouth. Often when you order a ‘Martini” in Europe they will serve you a Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth on the rocks,” says Quady.
Vermouth is basically a wine slightly fortified with spirits and flavored with botanical ingredients like herbs, flowers, roots and barks along with spices. Recipes and production methods vary greatly by style and region, and are often closely held trade secrets. Vermouth is traditionally made in sweet / red and dry / white versions that make for delicious Manhattans and Martinis. But there is no “standard” recipe for vermouth and adventuresome producers like Quady are expanding the category.
Quady launched Vya with Sweet and Extra Dry varieties of vermouth, and the reception was positive from the start. “Vya was embraced by the mixology community almost immediately, with noted mixologists like Dale DeGroff creating cocktails … to fit our vermouth’s flavors,” says Quady. Vya Vermouth is now distributed in all 50 states.
In 2013 Quady expanded the Vya lineup to include Vya Whisper Dry, a softer, lighter version of dry vermouth. “We created Whisper Dry to improve the vodka martini. We wanted a vodka martini with an interesting edge. But since going on the market, mixologists are finding all sorts of uses … the Whisper Dry is great for mixing summer cocktails,” says Quady.
Vya isn’t the only producer creating innovative vermouths. The traditional European producers are expanding product lines and bringing their original formulations to America (the American versions of many traditional vermouths were often reformulated with muted flavors), and American producers like Atsby, Imbue and Sutton Cellars make vermouths with unique flavors that expand well beyond simply “sweet” or “dry.”
How does Quady look at all this new competition? “It is certainly an exciting time with all the new styles out there,” he says. “I think it is great and just an expansion of the market … it is nice to have all the flowers in the garden.”
Quady recently added another flower to the garden. This summer, at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, Vya launched its newest product: El Vermut. El Vermut is a blend of three parts Vya sweet vermouth to one part Vya extra dry vermouth. Based on aperitifs Quady enjoyed in Spain, El Vermut is meant to be easily dispensed from a tapped keg and enjoyed on the rocks with an orange twist. El Vermut was a hit at Tales of the Cocktail; so don’t be surprised to see El Vermut on tap in local bars and restaurants in the near future.