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Tasting Notes – Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth

Submitted by Tim Brice on February 10, 2011 – 8:26 pmNo Comment

I was recently asked how long a bottle of dry vermouth is good for once it’s opened.  I said, I wasn’t sure, that I never had the stuff around long enough to find out.  The friend asking the question explained that he likes a good Martini and occassionally a Perfect Manhattan but, even in those applications, he doesn’t use that much of the stuff.  That statement led to the following question from me.

“How much dry vermouth do you use in your Dry Martini,” I asked.

“Oh, just a splash,” he said stopping for just a moment .  “It’s not very good and I don’t want it to ruin the taste of the vodka in my Martini.”

IMG 0852 Tasting Notes   Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth

“You mean ruin the taste of your vodka,” I said.  He paused somewhat confused before continuing.


My friends’ misunderstanding of the real nature of a Martini notwithstanding, his assertion that dry vermouth “isn’t very good” is common.  Most of the widly available dry vermouths out there are cheap and cheap tasting.  Yet, the most cursory review of any classic cocktail book reveals hundreds of drinks calling for the stuff.  How could something seemingly so ordinary have developed a reputation as the foundation that many cocktails are built upon?

The answer is Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth from Marseillan, France.  Essentially a French aperitif, Noilly Prat’s recipe dates back to 1813 and first found it’s way to the United States in 1840.  First mention of it in a U.S. recipe book was in an 1896 recipe called the Marquerite, which is the ancestor of the modern Martini.  That drink called for 1 part Noilly Prat to 2 parts Gin with a dash of orange bitters.

Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth gets its enchanting flavor through it’s unusal aging process.  Wines from Calirette and Picpoul grapes are blended with herbs and matured in large oak casks indoors.  Then, the wines are transferred to smaller oak barrels that spend their life in an outdoors open air enclosure.  The wines in the barrels are subjected to the heat of the summer and the cold of winter.  This process heightens latent sugars in the heat and then retards them in the cold.

But to believe, you must experience Noilly Prat for yourself.  The floral notes are unmistakable on the nose.  It is a very pleasant aroma with a subtle hint of vanilla and spice as well.  In the cup, Noilly Pratt has a slight pear/mango sweetness, with very present herbal characteristics and just the faintest hint of clove.

Kept cold and sipped straight in an aperitif glass, Noilly Prat is a welcome way to begin a meal.  But, of course, the magic of Noilly Prat is in a cocktail.  I tried Noilly Prat in three differnt cocktails against the same cocktails made with Cinzano and Martini and Rosso Dry Vermouths.  With the Noilly Prat winning in all three instances.   The cocktails were an Addington, a Perfect Manhattan and a Traditional Dry Martini.

In all three cases, the cocktail containing the Noilly Prat tasted fuller and more complete.  On a direct taste, both the Cinzano and Martini and Rosso Dry Vermouths are very thin on the palette and seem to just serve the roll of cutting the base spirit in the cocktail.

By contrast, Noilly Pratt has a flavor profile and mouthfeel of it’s own substantial enough to not just stand up to the base spirit, but to augment it.  The Addington, which is 2 to 1 sweet to dry vermouth topped with a little soda water, was undrinkable without the Noilly Prat and quite pleasant with it.  The Noilly Prat Perfect Manhattan was very well balanced between the Rye and the Sweet Vermouth and Dry Vermouth.

However, the Traditional Dry Martini (article to follow) showed why the Martini of old had so much dry vermouth and the Martini of today tends to have so little.  The Noilly Prat Dry Martini with 2 1/2 parts gin to 3/4 parts Noilly Prat was a spectacular drink.  The same recipe made with the other dry vermouths were undrinkable.

So find a bottle of Noilly Prat and play around with it.  You won’t usually find it at the supermarket and so you’re going to have to get out to a dedicated bar or spirits supply store.

Take it home and try it out with some of your favorite cocktails.  Then let me know what you think.  What cocktails did you try it in and what did you think.

Also, send me your favorite Noilly Prat inspired cocktails, with pictures if possible.

I also tried a Reverse Martini only trying the Noilly Pratt version, which I enjoyed a great deal.


article clipper Tasting Notes   Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth

Related posts:

  1. The Classic Martini

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