Cocktail connoisseurs know that when gin and vermouth come together in a tipple (and not just Martinis!), the result is truly delicious. But like gin, the quality of your vermouth makes all the difference - and the Bordiga Vermouth Bianco in May's Gin of the Month box is vermouth at its finest. Find out how Pietro Bordiga packed in his life as a bar owner to focus on distilling full time – and the secrets that made his vermouth so special that bartenders across northern Italy were clamouring to get their hands on a bottle.
Pietro Bordiga was a man of many passions – and when his fascination with herbs and plants met his love for the precise art of distilling, a vermouth like no other was born.
It helped that Pietro was working with amazing raw materials. Vermouth, at its heart, is wine fortified with herbs and infusions; in the sloping Italian alps, he had access to flavourful botanicals and the perfect Vermouth wine: Moscato.
As Lucia explains, “Moscato grape is the area’s most quintessential grape. We use it because it’s very sweet, and when Vermouth was first being produced sugar was very expensive. It’s a way of using less sugar, and also helping the grape – which doesn’t have a long shelf life – last longer with the help of some additional alcohol.”
The hardworking distillers at Bordiga source their base wine from the family-owned wineries that surround the distillery. Similarly, they hand-pick many of their herbs from the same Alpine village just outside of which their gin botanicals grow. It’s a close-knit community of producers and herb growers, and all of that love can be tasted in the final product.
“For us it’s important to work with and respect nature and our community,” Lucia says. “It goes hand-in-hand with quality.”
With all of the raw materials back in the distillery, it’s time to get to work. “There are different ways to make vermouth,” Lucia says, “and you can categorise them in terms of quality.”
While big producers can make a bottle in less than a day, the distillers at Bordiga – following Pietro’s original recipes to the letter – can take anywhere from 40 to 60 days.
“We do everything 100 per cent in-house,” Lucia says, and it’s no exaggeration – from picking herbs to making individual infusions so that each one has just the perfect amount of time to impart its flavour. Lucia explains, “We have lots of pharmacy bottles with all of the infusions, which we mix together. You don’t need a lot of every single one; some, you just need one drop.”
The wine is blended with sugar, the infused herbs and additional alcohol, and then filtered three times. The first of these filtration processes is, perhaps, the most unusual. Lucia says, “Back in the old days they would put the wooden barrel outside in the winter and wait for it to freeze. We don’t put it outside anymore, but we do freeze the steel tanks for 15 to 20 days – that’s our first filtration.”
The second filtrations are through paper filters. No chemicals are used at any stage in the process, making Bordiga’s Vermouth Bianco all natural. And while it may take time to produce a bottle, these ancient methods are a difference you can taste. That, Lucia says, is why they stick to Pietro’s original methods. “We’re the only distiller in our area who works this way,” she says.
While Lucia loves to use this vermouth in beautiful cocktails of the kind put together by Freud and Ritorno, her favourite serve is something a little simpler. She says, “I like it on the rocks with a slice of lemon, and maybe a splash of sparkling water in the summer. But one thing is certain: if I have a bottle in my fridge, it won’t last long!”