'La hora del vermut'

This Spanish phrase refers to the first drink of the day, even if that means consuming a different beverage

ANDREW J. LINN

The mention of vermouth ('vermut' or 'vermú' in Spanish), can send out different messages. For dry martini lovers the white vermouth is an essential ingredient of the classic cocktail.

In Spain, France and Italy ordering either white or red with a twist of lemon and a splash of soda is routine.

What is referred to as 'la hora del vermut' signifies the moment of the first drink of the day, even though this may be in practice a caña or a copa.

The term is more common in Catalonia, where bars still serve vermouth from the barrel.

Famous chef Albert Adriá had a bar in Barcelona known as a 'vermutería'.

Regrettably it is not common to see vermouth being consumed outside the home by anyone under 60.

The name comes from wermut, an 18th century German term for medical wine whose essential ingredient was ajenjo, or wormwood, allegedly the component of the illicit absinthe that caused blindness.

The best vermouth consists of decent wine infused with herbs and spices. Dani Garcia's famous cocktail, Last Sunshine, is made with red vermouth, Macallan whisky and soda, although a very acceptable home mix consists of one third red vermouth and two thirds dry sherry.

Cooking with vermouth is highly recommended, so instead of pouring a mediocre red wine into a beef stew, try using a red vermouth.

There are endless versions of both types of vermouth, even down to a rosé style that uses a different blend of herbs and botanicals.

And don't forget that Italian favourite aperitivo, Punt e Mes.