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Punt e Mes vermouth, 16% ABV
Star rating: 5/5
A favourite of mixologists the world over, Punt e Mes offers a formidable base for a cocktail. That's because of the intense flavour, immediately evident on the nose. The bouquet is a collision of cinnamon and peat in a cloud of tobacco, and behind that you'll also get cloves and oily pine.
On the palate it is smooth, in large part down to the honey, syrup and vanilla notes that help soften the sharp edges of that peppery cinnamon. Cherries marry with wormwood and there's a suggestion of menthol, too.
Punt e Mes is a product of the acclaimed Carpano Distillery. Antonio Carpano opened a wine bar in Turin in the late 18th century and in 1786, began serving Carpano, a wine he had fortified and infused with sweetening herbs. This was to become the first commercial sweet vermouth in history. As legend has it, nearly a century later, in 1870, a stockbroker ordered a sweet vermouth from his nephew with an extra point-and-a-half of bitterness to reflect his loss on the market that day – and the rest is history.
Many decades later, until being bombed in the Second World War, the drink remained immensely popular at the Carpano bar where patrons would order it with a mere gesture of the hand – a raised thumb drawing a horizontal line in the air (a stockbroker's signal for a point-and-a-half).
The perfect pour
Although Punt e Mes is commonly used as a base for negroni by expert bartenders, it's worth trying this vermouth in a Milano-Torino. To make it: in an ice-filled tumbler, mix equal measures of Campari bitters with Punt e Mes and garnish with an orange wedge. This cocktail is as refreshing as they come and a hair's breadth away from being a negroni or an Americano.
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