Cocchi Barolo Chinato
Provenance: Piedmont, Italy (16.5% abv)
Available at: The Wine Merchant, 20 S. Hanley Road, Clayton, winemerchantltd.com; $59.99
Try it: Neat, out of the fridge
Barolo Chinato is a tasty sibling to traditional sweet vermouths. It starts as a Barolo and is infused with up to 20 botanicals including rhubarb, ginger and quinquina bark. Cocchi brings us some fantastic aromatized wines, and its Chinato follows suit. Use it as a sweet vermouth substitute in your favorite cocktail recipes or simply enjoy it neat. There isn’t a better way to start or finish a meal. If you opt for the latter, pair it with some dark chocolate.
Salers Aperitif La Bounoux Gentiane Liqueur
Provenance: France (16% abv)
Available at: Randall's Wine and Spirits, multiple locations, shoprandalls.com; $19.99
Try it: On the rocks with a squeeze of lemon
Salers comes from Massif Central, the birthplace of gentiane aperitifs, which are gaining ground in the local mixology scene even though they have been around for centuries in France. Yellow gentiane flowers are used to produce this tasty liqueur. After distillation, Salers is aged in Limousin oak casks. Bittersweet flavors dominate, but also look for a touch of mint and citrus with earthy, chalky undertones.
Byrrh Grand Quinquina
Provenance: France (18% abv)
Available at: Randall's Wine and Spirits, multiple locations, shoprandalls.com; $18.99
Try it: Over a few rocks or as a substitute for sweet vermouth in a Manhattan
Byrrh (pronouced "beer") is yet another classic French spirit that is now available in the U.S. Muscat mistelle serves as the base, to which grenache and macabeu wines are added. Quinquina barks from South America and aromatics, including bitter orange and coffee, are then added, and the blend is aged in oak barrels. The finished product is full of ripe fruit flavors with just enough bitterness and spiciness to balance it out.
Award-winning sommelier and mixologist Chad Michael George is founder of Proof Academy, which covers everything from wine and cocktail list consulting to spirits and mixology education.