Perhaps you're on vacation, lounging in a hammock on a screened-in porch, or installed in a beach chair with no obligations other than discouraging your children from being dragged out by the undertow. In this context, there's nothing wrong with beginning to explore a six-pack of beer at 11 a.m. But next thing you know, it is still the afternoon of your first full day of vacation, and you're already sick of beer.
This is a good problem to have.
And the solution is even better: an increasing number of excellent, aromatised wines that are becoming easier and easier to find. Step into a general store in even a mildly fancy vacation town, and you will encounter racks of vermouth and similar liquid delicacies.
The potency of these beverages – typically less than 20 per cent alcohol by volume and highly amenable to dilution – is inversely proportional to their flavour. As such, they ideally suit the needs of those who want to achieve perfect indolence without approaching gross intoxication. Here's what to look for:
"," the wine drinkers say. Apertif wines are also well suited to extended sessions of pretty-in-pink imbibement. Like its older, better-known siblings, Lillet Blanc and Lillet Rouge, this one is built from Grand Cru Bordeaux wine varietals. Then it's fortified with fruit liqueurs and sharpened with a touch of quinine. With the makers having done this much work, all that remains is for you to pour it over ice and add a twist or wedge of orange. The delicate plumminess of Lillet Rosé pairs nicely with the juiciest thriller found on the shelf of your rental house.
Cocchi Apertivo Americano
Similar to Lillet Blanc but distinguished by its pleasant sharpness, Cocchi Americano has been made since the late 19th Century. In the early 21st, many craft-cocktail bartenders mix it with equal parts gin, orange liqueur, and lemon juice (plus the merest hint of absinthe or Pernod) to make the great restorative called the Corpse Reviver #2, traditionally served in a coupe glass.
If your own, personal corpse is not in need of reanimation, play around with converting that classic into a easy highball: Cram a long glass with ice, pour in two ounces of Cocchi, and add experimental dashes and dribbles of the harder stuff according to taste, plus enough lemon to satisfy your sour tooth. Top it with seltzer (maybe even a fruit-flavored one) and serve in a beach-ready plastic tumbler (or maybe even a tall, tin cup that will refreshingly sweat with condensation under the noonday sun).
When you think of vermouths that are white, you probably think of the dry ones used, at least symbolically, to make a classic martini. This isn't that. Like the delicious Dolin Blanc, Carpano Bianco is light but sweet. Its fragrant notes of apple and fresh berries render it amenable to all manner of experimentation. At the very least, consider pouring some into a half-full Perrier bottle to make a badminton match slightly more interesting. More ambitiously – meaning: not too very ambitiously, because the whole point is that you're relaxing – fix a Bianco and tonic with a grapefruit twist. For a rainy-day project, try using it as the sweetener in your limeade.
Cocchi 'Dopo Teatro' Vermouth Amaro
The geniuses at Cocchi, responsible for so many excellent vermouths, have recently introduced a dark, deep one to the U.S. The flavor profile of Dopo Teatro is similar to that of Punt e Mes, with its amaro-like bitterness, but the particular richness of flavor is like nothing else. It's promoted as an evening drink – "dopo teatro" means "after theatre" – but I must point out that there do exist matinees.
Here's an idea: While you're putting together turkey sandwiches for lunch, drink a small glass of it neat. While you're eating those sandwiches on the deck (with salt-and-vinegar chips, please), drink a smaller glass of it on ice. Linger with it, appreciating how the melting of the ice encourages a leisurely journey into the depths of its complex aroma.
Any random sweet vermouth
Maybe you've got a bottle around from having fixed Negronis the night before. Perhaps it's now a little too early in the afternoon to get into business so serious quite yet. Possibly the thing to do is fill a red-wine glass with ice, almost-fill it with vermouth, and then add a bottle cap of Campari – or two dashes from the Angostura bottle that's been in the summer house kitchen since you inherited it. That additional bit of astringency should cut the sweetness of a garden-variety vermouth. Definitely, the potion will help to set a vacay frame of mind.