France is known for several culinary wonders of the world, but one thing that stands out is the vermouth — equally as famous as many of its Italian counterparts.
The one that stands out the most is Noilly Prat, having had it’s bicentenary celebration in 2013 – making it one of the oldest vermouths in the world. This is down to not only its reputation, but also thanks to its outstanding quality and continued use in cocktail favourite, the Martini.
The first recipe was created in 1813 by fine wine and spirit merchant Joseph Noilly in southern France which lead his son Louis Noilly to begin ageing wine by the sea, in the fishing village of Marseillan. The two wines used in the creation its creation are Picpoul and Clairette. With 200 hundred years of history, its popularity is no doubt a product of hard work and passion.
Recently this year I had a chance to chat with Ludo Miazga, Noilly Prat’s Global Brand Ambassador whose past hits kicked off with a degree in electrical engineering. He travelled to the UK to learn English and ended up working in Milk and Honey – eventually being recruited by Bacardi. He’s held roles with Bacardi rums, Grey Goose & Baron Cognac to name a few. I’m not sure how long we spoke for, but it probably could’ve gone on for hours.
Noilly Prat has somewhat become a staple for a martini – its subtle and floral palate with a slightly nutty nose helps facilitate a crisp tasting vodka. In fact Ludo’s choice of martini is gibson style –
1 part Grey Goose,
1 part Noilly Prat
Stirred down with orange bitters and of course garnish with a cocktail onion.
Ludo also enjoys 2 measures of Noilly Prat over 2 cubes of ice with a twist of lemon. He actually suggests this as an aperitif – enjoying it with Marseillan’s locally farmed oysters, though I’m not sure I’m quite ready for oysters.
Talking of how the brand has developed and what its future is, Ludo spoke of how you could introduce Noilly Prat to someone who doesn’t know anything about it – almost as if they were an alien. As he put it – ‘invite people to close their eyes and explore with their nose’. It’s not until you stop looking at something, that you can really see how great it actually is. He also talked about how the cocktail renaissance that kicked off back in the early 2000’s helped revive the vermouth category and is getting more popular in recent years. Of particular highlight would are establishments like Italian restaurant Mele e Pere and their own vermouths or Bassoon Bar at the Corinthia, with vermouth friendly Bar Manager Stefano Cossio and their barrel aged vermouth. Other notable institutions that blend their own include Blind Pig & Nightjar.
When I asked him about the future of vermouth as a category, he told me it was about new brands and even bartenders creating their own vermouth blends – as well as the delivery of vermouth. Examples such as the recently departed el Bulli creating a molecular olive with Noilly Prat or even a Noilly Prat ice cube with orange bitters and water, stirred into your gin or vodka.
During our conversation I also learnt about Noilly Prat Ambré, a product which is currently available in limited supply to the on-trade, at Whisky Exchange (a few bottles), specialist shops in Paris and of course at the vermoutherie in Marseillan.
The Ambré is quite a unique vermouth, much in the way of the dry recipe, its flavour profile makes it palatable on its own and also in a cocktail, such as a Manhattan. Botanicals included are: Cardamom, Lavender and Cinnamon. On my first taste (chilled of course) it took me to a place soaked in heat and sun with not care in the world, with a similar sweet and floral taste to that of a dessert wine, with somewhat honeyed notes. Worryingly, it’s far to drinkable – but that’s a great thing: no risk of oxidisation. The recipe is supposedly based on a recipe dating back to 1813, the inception of the brand.
I take it served over ice or in a little something something of my own design, such as my ‘L’oie Ambrée’ – which showcases the full flavour of the Ambré, it also helps the wonderful palate and clarity of the Grey Goose.
60ml – Grey Goose
25ml – Noilly Prat Ambré
7ml – St. Germain Eldeflower Liqueur
2 drops Master of Malt Wormwood bitters
1 dash gomme
4 sprigs thyme (Leave to soak in the vodka for 10 minutes)
1 Egg white
Shake dry, then over ice. Strain into a frosted Grey Goose glass or champagne flute, garnish with a sprig of Thyme tied round a Grey Goose stirrer.