I have a tendency to get obsessive about aggressive, bitter flavours. When I drank beer, I sought out the hoppiest IPAs, but now that I no longer drink beer (it makes me sneeze), I’m all about bitter, botanical amari. I don’t know why I love punishing my palate with plants, but I do.
Guzzling Ferraris (Fernet + Campari) has trained my palate to shun the sweet, so much so that I have a hard time drinking classic Manhattans (and making friends). Luckily, Punt e Mes exists, and it’s the perfect fortified wine for fans of the bitter.
According to Food & Wine, the name translates to “‘point and a half’ and, so the story goes, it’s one part vermouth and half a part intensely herbal-bitter quina liqueur.” It’s fortified wine, but with more bitter plants, and it rules. It’s sweet enough to act as a modifier, but has a more confrontational backbone than what you would usually find in a sweet vermouth. Best of all: You can sub it right in for any sweet vermouth without changing the proportions. (It’s also really good with soda.)
I use Punt e Mes in my Manhattans, my Negronis — anything that calls for sweet vermouth, really, but right now I’m on a Rob Roy kick. The bitter character of Punt e Mes works particularly well with a peaty scotch. To make it, you will need:
- 2 ounces blended scotch
- 1 ounce Punt e Mes
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine everything in a stirring glass filled with cracked ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and serve with a strip or orange zest or a cherry, if you have it.