I finally tracked down a bottle of Carpano Antica, and all I can say is WOW. I see that CrispyCritter is a fan, and had a thread on this, but I just missed the annual expiration date to post there. It is so good though, I wanted to bring this back up. What a vermouth!!
This is easily good enough to drink straight, and when doing so it starts out a bit sweet and finishes a bit bitter with a wonderful aromatic herbal journey in between.
Over this past week I've made a couple of Manhattans with this with a variety of whiskeys. Since this vermouth was so good, I was making all these to the traditional recipe found in David Wondrich's Imbibe where the vermouth and whiskey is 1 to 1. I know that even in today's fancy cocktail bars this is still too much vermouth for most, but the Carpano is so good, I find these to be wonderful. Also I mostly was using Regan's Orange bitters, but also messed around with others as well. The results:
As the week wore on, I started to not trust myself and wondered "is it really that good or am I crazy?" So last night I has a taste test. I have a fresh bottle of Noilly Prat Sweet that I cracked open. I made two identical ones with the Wild Turkey, and it turns out that I'm not crazy.
- Good: Buffalo Trace. Maybe a touch sweet, but still very good.
- Great: An bottle of "old No.8" Wild Turkey 101 from 1993. Typically I find WT101 a pretty "hot" and spicy bourbon which I don't always like straight. Mixed with this though is WOW. The heat is GONE. The spice is just there as an undertone and the bitter from the Carpano is mostly gone. Wonderful pair.
- Fantastic: Things were going so well, that I decided to commit a little blasphemy and mix a one to one with Thomas Handy 132.7. WOW! As good as the Carpano is, it can't mask the high proof of the Handy, which is a good thing! There was just enough heat with a wonderful spice herb interaction between the rye and Carpano. This is for sure not a sustainable habit however, as my supply of Handy is indeed limited just like everyone else.
The Noilly for sure makes a very enjoyable drink, but just doesn't meld with the whiskey as well. The Noilly also seemed to have a Worcestershire sauce taste that I always seem to detect. (and I usually buy them from stores that have high turnaround and buy in small bottles)
The Carpano on the other hand, just did a better job of mixing with the whiskey, so that the best of both ingredients comes through. I know that many like to "taste" their whiskey when drinking cocktails, and I can totally agree. The Carpano by no means "masks" the whiskey, but instead provides a nice contrast to it.
Thus to make a long story short, even if you just have a passing interest in Manhattans, you owe it to yourself to try and track down a bottle of this. I'm looking forward to trying more classic cocktails with this Carpano.