Noilly Prat Original Vermouth
by Darcy O'Neil on February 2011
You know the world of the cocktail is changing when a vermouth company reformulates their product to the original recipe. This seems to be happening more frequently now that people have started to appreciate more complex flavours and less syrupy sweetness. Noilly Prat Original has just hit the airwaves in Ontario, with their rediscovered love for the past. Prior to this epiphany, Noilly Prat had been hocking the "Extra Dry" formulation, which was--correct me if I'm wrong--a marketing tie in with the Extra Dry Martini from days-gone-by. So the questions is: is this a good thing or bad?
I rarely ever stocked Noilly Prat, but a few days ago I decided to remake the original Brooklyn Cocktail (more on that later) and it was specific about using French dry vermouth. Noilly Prat, being the only French vermouth available at the LCBO, made my choice easy. I did notice the new label which highlighted the "original" as opposed to the "Extra Dry" that I was familiar with. A couple of days later, I received a press release discussing the reformulation, with Gary Regan providing some commentary. Obviously, press releases are always positive, so they say reformulation is good.
Over at eGullet there is a little debate going on about the "new" formula and it seems to be split. For people that have used Noilly Prat Extra Dry religiously in their drinks, it's bad because it's different. For those who like experimenting, or tasting history, this is a good thing. For people like me, who have realized that you can go into every bar in North America, and order the same drink, but it will rarely taste the same, change is part of the timeline.
I figure if I ever get so set in my ways that "change" becomes intolerable, it is time to get the "curmudgeon" golf shirt out, hike my pants up around my nipples and start yelling and shaking my fist at kids walking past the house. I might even buy a walking cane just to make me look extra curmudgeonly. But, for now, change is good. I like progress, even if it means starting over from the beginning.
Sure, people are going to be irritated that their drink doesn't taste like the last 4,000 martini's they've had, and ya, a few bartenders are going to have to reformulate, but hey that's life. And really, why do people fixate on one particular drink so much? Live a little.
For me Noilly Prat Original falls in the good category because it brings a little more flavour to the party. It also shows that writers, bloggers and drinkers are having an affect on the marketing types. Instead of "lowest common denominator" type products, we are starting to see more targeted products. And really it makes sense because people who drink syrupy sweet concoctions aren't going to start drink vermouth because it's "less bitter, sweeter, with reduced flavour". That type of marketing hurts everyone, because the people who appreciate flavour get screwed.
Noilly Prat Marketing Material:
"Created by Joseph Noilly in 1813, Noilly Prat Original Dry Vermouth is a classic French apéritif created from Picpoul and Clairette grapes, using a unique aging process. In the South of France, these fine white wines are aged outdoors in oak casks exposed to the Mediterranean sun, sea, and wind for 12 months. The dry, full-bodied wines are then infused with the aromatic blend of 20 herbs and spices macerated directly in the wine for three weeks. The distinctive taste of NOILLY PRAT takes over two years to produce, and the result is worth the wait."