In a world of great divides, it’s good to come across some middle ground once in a while, and in the drinkscape, blanc vermouth occupies that center space. Because between the two poles of sweet and dry, blanc fills the long-overlooked gray area, and it’s now claiming its role as an essential cocktail ingredient. But why has blanc been in the shadows for so long? “We can thank the primacy of the Manhattan, Martini, and Negroni for that,” says Lukas Smith of Cotton & Reed in Washington, D.C. While blanc does have classic recipes to its credit—notably the El Presidente—it couldn’t claim an iconic signature drink as other vermouths did. “Blanc is often overshadowed by dry or sweet because we live in a Manhattan vs. Martini world,” says Tyler Jay Wang, formerly of The Kirkland Tap and Trotter in Boston and now a brand ambassador for Beam Suntory.
In such a two-party system, any third choice—even an excellent one—simply has a more difficult time gaining traction. “Most people like to see things in black and white, and blanc vermouth can be forgotten, as it sits somewhere in between dry and sweet,” says Laura Newman of Queen’s Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
Dolin Blanc, from Chambéry, France, has long been the standard-bearer for the category, though with the revival of historic brand Comoz Blanc, and the debut of others such as La Quintinye Vermouth Royal, it’s no longer the only option. Lightly sweet, with a balance of honeyed fruit and flowers and a gentle bitterness, blanc fills a perfectly in-between flavor niche. Just don’t mistake it for a bianco—the Italian answer to the French blanc, which typically aims in a different direction. “Italian biancos tend to be redolent of vanilla, which can make them seem sweeter, while French blanc vermouths are more floral and delicate,” Newman says.
Blanc may visually resemble dry vermouth, but the flavors are anything but interchangeable. “Due to its sugar content and aromatically sweet profile, blanc has more utility in cocktails than its dry cousin,” says Smith, whose Mental Note utilizes blanc’s ability to weave together disparate flavors. Blanc’s floral elements play well with the light, aromatic notes of ingredients like honey and coconut water, as in Newman’s What the Flock? And for softening the edges of London dry gin and cherry eau de vie in his La Contadi, Wang turned to blanc for its boundary-blurring abilities. “If you’re preparing a cocktail with multiple naturally dry-leaning ingredients, you need something fuller to tie those flavors together,” he says.
47 Degrees North
A touch of blanc vermouth softens the classic Alaska.
An equal-parts Martini riff made for drinkers looking for more funky flavor.
Bar Agricole’s El Presidente
The Cuban classic gets an upgrade from the bar crew at Bar Agricole.
An elegant mix of gin, genever, blanc vermouth, orange bitters and Bénédictine.
Caldo de Caña
A super-refreshing summer sipper.
The D’Artagnan Pisco Martini
Softer and sweeter than gin or vodka, pisco lends a delicate touch to the classic Martini framework.
Fernet and Cynar lend extra layers of bitter complexity to this riff.
Isn’t She Lovely
A vodka cocktail with elderflower, grapefruit and vermouth.
This low-ABV cocktail matches dry vermouth with soft lavender bitters and tonic water.
Killer on Ice
Mexican rum shines when paired with blanc vermouth, agave syrup and bitters.
Brightly flavored and low in alcohol, this refreshing blanc vermouth cocktail is perfectly tailored for warm weather drinking.
North by Northwest
A beautiful blend of gin, sloe gin, vermouth, cinnamon and lime.
Pet Shop Eyes
Raspberries help tap into the fruity side of a Mexican sugarcane spirit.
Salt and Flattery
Step into summer with this swizzle from San Diego.
A make-ahead martini from the book Batch Cocktails.
Vermut & Tonic
The standard combo benefits from a few extra layers of deliciousness.
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