The Most Common Home Bartending Mistake

Ever made a Manhattan or martini at home and were all “Damn, why isn’t this as good as when I go out? I can’t even make a stupid three-ingredient drink right. Ending it all.”?

Here’s why.

YOU AREN’T REFRIGERATING YOUR VERMOUTH.

That’s why.

Easy rule of thumb: if it’s a fortified wine (that means all vermouths, Lillet, sherry, madeira, port), it needs to be refrigerated. The ABV (alcohol by volume, aka booziness) isn’t high enough to keep it good-to-go at room temp. But liqueurs — even ones with ABV’s as low as fortified wines, like Campari, Cynar and amari — don’t need to be refrigerated. (Why? I don’t know. What am I, a scientist?)

How long does vermouth last in the fridge? Some people will tell you a few weeks, but the real answer is longer — there will be a modest decrease in quality, but not to the point where you’ll even notice it. So let’s say a month or two.

Related: if you see a dusty bottle of vermouth at a bar, sitting there, looking sad, run away, or least order something on the rocks.

Since you asked:

  • The best Manhattan is made not with bourbon, but with rye (Old Overholt, the best deal in the booze business at about $16 a bottle, works very nicely; many prefer Rittenhouse and its higher proof), and is 2:1 whiskey:sweet vermouth (Dolin is great; get fancy with Carpano Antica!), plus dashes of Angostura bitters (call it “Ango” to sound like a douchey cocktail geek). 2.5:1 is also acceptable. A “perfect” Manhattan divides the vermouth between sweet and dry and is what Dale DeGroff drinks, so try it.
  • Martinis are made with gin, not vodka (feel free to order a vodka martini, but you’ll have to call it a vodka “martini,” using air quotes, which might require you to put down your drink while you perform said air quotes). The ratio is more flexible than with a Manhattan. 2:1 (gin:dry vermouth) is fine, but most people will find it too sweet. 3:1 is totally acceptable. If you want a tiny tiny tiny amount of vermouth, ok, but you might as well just order a chilled glass of gin.
  • Finally, James Bond is a moron, twice over. Manhattans and martinis should be stirred not shaken. (Why? I TOLD YOU I’M NOT A SCIENTIST.)
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