If I can single out one drink that distinguishes this part of the world it’s Vermouth, but not as you know it.
The vermouth made here is complex, beautifully rich, with strong hints of caramel and bitter orange.
The classic way to serve this drink is in not mixed up with other stuff but neat, in a tumbler full of ice, garnished with aceitunas rellenas de anchoa (that is olives stuffed with anchovies which add a wonderful satly contrast to the flavour) a slice or orange or lemon.
You can have white or red Vermouth, my personal favourite is the red reserva type like the popular Yzaguirre Royo Reserva
Think of the finest Christmas pudding (it has the same color), smoky caramellised sugar (yes, the kind you find on top of a well made Crema Catalana), blood red oranges and the way you feel after a really hot day when everything tastes better… Yzaguirre Rojo Reserva has a depth of flavor which steals the Vermouth show.
Even better is Vermouth Perucchi. Not only does the bottle look like something which is not going to end in the recycling bin but the contents are equally gorgeous, with hints of bitter cherry, spices and sumptuous blood orange all seriously deliciously combined together – It also lays claims to be the first Vermouth ever made in Spain.
Here is a snippet from the literature which accompanies the bottle which gives you a better insight in to its manufacture ” …By the mid XIX century, and as a result of the lifetime work of Augustus Perucchi the first Vermouth made in Spain was born. It was made of a complex, traditional and hand crafted recipe, based on wines and wine liqueurs mixed with plants, herbs and roots of both Mediterranean and Oriental origin. Every single plant, herb and fruit used in making our Vermouth have to be selected and collected at their right point of maturity in order to use their best qualities. Then these ingredients go through a number of processes of maceration, grinding, infusion, pressing, filtering, etc. and a “Grand Cru” is obtained, which is then mixed with other “Crus” of older years, in a process that started over a century ago.
“The “Grand Cru” thus made will then be mixed with the ripe, soft and balanced wines reaching the final product: Vermouth, which will then grow old in ancient oak casks, obtaining with time the bouquet and character of all Perucchi Vermouths.
” Most of the wine tubs, presses and casks used today in making our vermouth are the original ones installed by Signore Perucchi in the XIX Century, making our vermouth keep the genuine flavours and scents…”
Most of the wine shops here will sell you a bottle and prices start at as little as 2.50 euros for a litre of the artisan stuff (which means you will either bring your own empty bottle to fill or buy a plastic container for a few cents); the commercial type, like Perucchi is a bit more expensive at 7.80 euros a bottle, which considering the labour that goes in to making the stuff is still a real bargain.
Best place to buy Vermouth is Jove in the old quarter because of the selection on offer and because the artisan Vermouth he sells from the back of the shop is the best I have ever tasted.