“I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than most countries.How easy it is to make friends in Spain.” – George Orwell, from Homage to Catalonia
When an alcohol becomes a feature of a particular time of day, it’s obviously a cultural cornerstone. Early afternoons on Saturdays and Sundays in Catalonia, the Northeastern region of Spain whose capital is Barcelona, people fer un vermut (go to do a vermouth). They consume sweet vermouth on its own as an aperitif to whet the appetite for lunch. Before living in Barcelona, I had only had vermouth in cocktails. I immediately fell for this drink meant to be imbibed on an empty stomach.
Vermouth’s base is wine, but it is normally fortified with another spirit. What makes it unique is the bittering agent added to it, wormwood. However, vermouth will not take you on a trip to see the Green Fairy and the Moulin Rouge. The bittering agent gives vermouth its name as the German word for wormwood is wermut. The two most common types of vermouth are sweet and dry. Both often use white wine varietals as their base, and sweet gets its red color from various flavorings. While both are used extensively in cocktails, sweet vermouth is the main style consumed on its own.
The focus of this entry is on Lustau’s rosé vermouth. Rosé vermouths have become more common and use a rosé wine as the basis. Summer’s almost over but keep the rosé vermouth flowing.
Lustau rosé vermouth has a delicate nose and flavor profile. A deep inhalation before the first sip introduces an interesting assortment of aromas. It reveals an intermingling of white chocolate, almonds, and the slightest hint of olive. While this may sound off-putting, it somehow manages to work.
The first experience after taking a sip is a realization of the clean texture that introduces a subtle sweetness without any cloying. Crisp fresh grapes come through as the most prominent flavor. The grapes are accented with a bit of citrus peel that provides a wonderful compliment. Finally, only a hint of bitterness comes through, but it blends with the other flavors.
THIRST AND HUNGER
Twist on a Classic: Vermut
I thought about a number of drink options to substitute in the rosé vermouth. Ultimately, I settled on the most authentic Spanish way possible, drinking it straight. I fell in love with drinking sweet red vermouth with olives and an orange slice in Spain, and I thought doing this with rosé vermouth would be the best possible option. So, I hope you enjoy vermouth in its original state.
For the drink:
4 oz Lustau vermut rosé
For the garnish:
1 orange slice
Rocks glass/any medium-sized glass
Fill a rocks or any medium-sized glass about half full with ice.Pour in the vermouth.Garnish with the olives and orange.Eat the olives and orange after you finish the drink.
Something Original: El Sol Rosa
I’ve become addicted to seltzer water. For the longest time, I found it intolerable. Then I started with flavored water, and once I progressed to having it in cocktails I got hooked. I love the effervescent nature of the carbonation and its capacity to effectively bring out the various scents of the drink. Paired with the citrus scents and seltzer, the rosé vermouth shines nicely in the drink and serves as a nice foundation.
For the drink:
2 oz Lustau vermut rosé
1 oz Fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ oz Solerno blood orange liqueur
½ oz Cynar
4 oz Seltzer water
For the garnish:
Pour the vermouth, lemon juice, Solerno, and Cynar into a cocktail shaker and fill about halfway with ice. Shake until chilled. Pour into an empty Collins glass through a Hawthorne and fine mesh strainer. Fill the Collins glass about halfway with ice. Top with seltzer water and give a brief stir to incorporate. Express the lemon peel over the drink and garnish.
Eat Your Spirit: Rosé-mary Chicken
I love mushrooms, but not on pizza. Some of my favorite mushrooms I’ve had were as a topping to homemade risotto. For those, I used white wine to cook the mushrooms. So, I thought cooking the mushrooms in the rosé vermouth might be a different twist. The delicate sweetness balanced with the herbs works well with the earthiness of the mushrooms. While this recipe works well with chicken, I’m sure it would be an excellent complement to risotto as well.
For the chicken:
2-4 pieces of your favorite cut of chicken (I prefer thighs)
1½ teaspoons Lemon pepper
1 teaspoon Salt
1½ teaspoon Greek oregano
For the mushrooms:
1 package Baby bella mushrooms
3 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon Olive oil
1/3 cup Lustau vermut rosé
1 teaspoon Ground pepper
1 teaspoon Dried rosemary
1 teaspoon Dried Greek oregano
½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Garlic powder
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. While it warms, coat your chicken in olive oil then add the seasonings. Place in a covered oven-safe dish and cook until internal temperature reaches the requisite safe threshold. 165 degrees farenheit is considered the minimum for all parts of the chicken and thighs can be cooked to 175-180 degrees without drying them out. This should take between 30-45 minutes.
When your chicken is about 15 minutes from being done begin chopping the mushrooms. Melt the butter and oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted and the skillet is warm add the mushrooms. Then add the vermouth and the seasonings and stir. Allow to cook until the mushrooms have softened and much of the liquid has been absorbed, about 7 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Serve the chicken and top with your rosé vermouth mushrooms.
Spain has to be one of the most fantastic countries in the world for where else could you listen to bag pipes (Galician Gaita), munch on the world’s premier pork, ski 11,000-foot mountains, and nap on a Mediterranean beach. The diversity of Spain’s various cultures makes for a most eclectic experience. While I have only been to four regions of Spain, each had their own distinct culture.
My primary Spanish experience ironically was in Catalonia, a region conflicted about being Spanish. I lived in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, for about six months while on a Fulbright studying the independence movement. I found it fascinating to learn about the overlapping identities people have in terms of whether they see themselves as Catalan, Spanish, or some combination of the two. The complicated history and unique culture of the city makes Barcelona a sun-soaked mystery to try and solve every day with a new adventure. So, I thought I’d provide a few recommendations for a trip in a post-Covid world. Some of these are the stereotypical things you’ll see listed in many places, but they are worth it, unlike Mount Rushmore. Totally underwhelming…
Bars and Restaurants:
-Can Recasens: This was my favorite dinner spot. Its an old home that a family has run for years on the Rambla de Poblenou.
-Espai Joliu: A wonderful modern cafe/self-proclaimed concept store.
-Brunch and Cake: A fantastic brunch place, but the requirement for the waiters to wear fedoras is excessive.
-Bar La Beata: A great bar that features craft beer from all over Spain.
-Any restaurant at Plaça de la Vila de Gracia: This is my favorite plaza in Barcelona. All of the restaurants are enjoyable, but if you want seafood, eat at Cadaqués.
Things to do in Barcelona:
-Sagrada Familia: There is nothing like it. Buy your tickets ahead of time to ensure entry.
-Parc Güell: Another Gaudí masterpiece. Set aside plenty of time. Again, buy tickets ahead of time.
-Rambla del Poblenou: A true Barcelona Rambla that isn’t overcrowded and touristy like the famous Las Ramblas.
-Fundacio Juan Miro: A wonderful exhibit from a famous Catalan artist.
-Parc de la Ciutadella: A beautiful park in the heart of Barcelona.
-Beaches: Barcelona has amazing beaches and you can walk miles along the coast.
-Montjuïc: One of the highest points in Barcelona. A quarry in Roman times. A castle at one point. A prison during the Franco dictatorship.
-Camp Nou: Go see Barcelona play! And if you can't do the tour.
Things to do near Barcelona:
-Montserrat: A monastery located about 45 minutes outside Barcelona that's accessible by train. You can hike the 3,000 feet to the top or take a cable car. I recommend the hike up the monastery that records show dates back to the 880s.
-Girona: A wonderful town with a beautiful old Jewish quarter. They filmed part of Game of Thrones there.
-Tarragona: Another fantastic Catalan city with a fantastic old Roman amphitheater.