In busy plazas across Barcelona, every Sunday, glasses chink as the city’s inhabitants chatter and sip on Vermouth. The Spanish do daytime drinking well. They enjoy it with decorum and class. In this Catalan corner of Spain, Vermouth is enjoyed as it should be, on its own, mixed with soda water, poured over ice with an olive neatly skewered on a cocktail stick poking over the top of the glass.
The Sunday Vermouth has been brought back to life in the bustling Catalan city. It is no longer relegated to your grandmother’s Negroni, now bearded and tattooed bartenders are serving Vermouth all over the city. The low alcohol content makes it a perfect daytime accompaniment and the crisp flavour is a welcome relief from the summer warmth.
The origin of modern Vermouth can be traced back to Italian winemaker, Antonio Benedetto in 1786, but Spanish Vermouth producers have been active in Catalunya, the Basque Country and Andalucía for more than a century. Their brews are sold to bars, often in unlabeled barrels. In 1902 Café Torino opened in Barcelona, paying homage to the city in which Benedetto crafted the drink. The Café specialized in Vermouth and it was quickly adopted as an after-mass treat.
After Franco’s death, the new generation turned their back on many of the traditions associated with the period and Vermouth was dismissed as passé. The rejuvenation of several of these traditions is occurring now. Sherry, canned foods and offal are seeping their way back into Spanish culture.
Sample one of the Catalan producers like Casa Mariol, Yzaguirre or Perucchi with some olives or cured meats and cheeses in one of Barcelona’s Vermuterias, for a Catalan Sunday in the sun.