Tales From The Top Shelf: Punt e Mes

This year-round present can help find the perfect something when shopping at The Houston Wine Merchant.
This year-round present can help find the perfect something when shopping at The Houston Wine Merchant. Photo by Kate McLean
“Punt e Mes on the rocks with orange zest,” he grins, “my favorite.”

Vermouth comes in two different styles; sweet and dry. Samantha Jones likes it sweet. James Bond likes it dry. And Tony Vallone likes Punt e Mes because it’s an original and so is he.

Punt e Mes is an aperitivo that's sweet, bitter, floral and herbaceous. Oils from fresh orange zest permeate both air and liquid to complement the beverage seamlessly. “Un Punto di Vermouth, e mezzo di amaro,” speaks to the recipe of one part vermouth rosso, half part amaro. “Mountain herbs” are gracefully evident as well.

In 1870 an Italian stockbroker ordered his regular red vermouth, but this time asked the bartender to add an extra half of amaro. Whether it was a good day or bad day at work isn't known, but something caused him to switch it up and the result was delicious.

Rewind back to vermouth, which is a wine that’s flavored with botanicals and then fortified. Bitter herbs, bark, and wormwood (ingredient in Absinthe) are key. According to Carpano, its original producer, to be classified Vermouth, it must be 75 percent wine, an ABV between 14.5 and 22 percent, and contain Artemesias, which is a genus of plant.

Sweet vermouth is red and clings to his Italian mother. Dry vermouth is white and takes after his handsome French father. Both make ethereal additions to cocktails, soups, and sauces, but Punt e Mes is a hybrid designed for straight sippin’.

In 1786 Antonio Benedetto Carpano revived an old-school Roman recipe in his wine shop in Turin, Piedmont and poof, modern day vermouth was born. According to the ever-resilient Wikipedia, Carpano made the sweet, botanical, and boozy spirit because he thought it would be a “more suitable beverage for ladies than the local red wines.” I don’t know man, kind of seems like you were trying to keep the Barolo all for yourself. Carpano Antica is available for purchase today and is based on his original recipe—that’s a sipper, too.

Aperitivo is Italian for “happy hour,” and Houston Wine Merchant is a great place to pick up a bottle for that purpose. The carefully curated selection caters to beginners and experts alike.
click to enlarge Party time, yes? - PHOTO BY KATE MCLEAN
Party time, yes?
Photo by Kate McLean
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