If you’re a vermouth geek, another thing that might catch your attention is the fact that the stuff is fortified (ie. its alcohol content is increased) by the addition of Pineau des Charentes rather than a neutral spirit of the kind more usually employed by those who cook up vermouths.
Drinking it on its own — with ice and, mayhap, a twist of orange — this will put you in mind of the nicest, booziest cola you’ve ever tasted. It’s pretty sweet (compared to something like Asterley Bros Estate Vermouth) and therefore extremely easy to drink. Alongside the cola, there’s some subtle black olive flavour and a general impression of sweet red fruits as well as raisin. Set it alongside Martini Rosso or Dolin (neither of which, I might add, would I otherwise choose to drink neat), La Quintinye is a lot more complex: heavier, deeper, somewhat more textured and less sharp. For my tastes it’s a little too sweet to be a go-to drink in this context; I prefer the bitterer Vermouths to drink neat, but if you like a bit more sweetness this is very nice indeed.
So slosh it into some cocktails.
First, a Negroni. And it’s very nice. I like it best with Sacred Rosehip Cup in the place of Campari, which gives the vermouth more space to show off its character. But even in a standard Negroni (I used Campari and The Wine Society’s High Strength Gin) the difference between a La Quintinye Negroni and one with an everyday vermouth is noticeable: the LaQ version is fruitier, more expansive. The cola quality comes through without remotely dominating. Alongside it, Negronis made with Martini or Dolin taste that bit sweeter and one-dimensional to me.
That said, it’s less dominant in a Negroni than something like Asterley Bros (which changes the character of the cocktail quite profoundly). LaQ’s impact is subtler.
And in that other great red vermouth cocktail, the Manhattan? La Quintinye doesn’t reinvent the drink, but it again (I’d say) improves it in subtle ways: softens it a little, broaden and deepen it. It’s fruitier and more opulent and I found it brought to the fore the chocolatey quality of the whiskey. Extremely nice.
So, yes, I’d give La Quintinye a go if you’re after a vermouth that’ll subtly vary (and, I’d say, arguably enhance) your Negronis, your Manhattans, your Hanky Pankies (it’s bloody good in a Hanky Panky, that fabulous cocktail so underserved by its silly name). And if you love cola, you’ll probably also love this on its own.
The same company also makes a dry vermouth and a white vermouth, but I haven’t tried those. Yet. You can buy La Quintinye Vermouth Royal Rouge from Master of Malt for £22.37. Er, except it’s sold out at the moment. So you can’t.
(More vermouth reviews? There you go.)