Class in Session – Carl Sutton in the House

foto courtesy of The Boston Shaker

Vermouth has moved out of the shadows of mixology and  gained respect both as an ingredient but also as an aperitif. Once upon a time, Carl Sutton realized that he could and would make Vermouth and he did; we are now the beneficiaries of that epiphany.  On Oct. 29th, Carl gave a guided tasting of four Vermouths and a deconstructed tasting of his own Sutton Cellars Brown Label Vermouth at The Boston Shaker, the go-to store for both home and industry mixologists – all things “cocktail” can be found at The Boston Shaker. Proprietor Adam Lantheaume passionately spreads the cocktail gospel; we at WDWU sponsored a cocktail class with Adam last winter that was a highlight of our Sunday Night Supper Club series. Carl Sutton is the force behind Sutton Cellars, a small winery located in the Dogpatch of  San Francisco, a culinary-rich neighborhood with such denizens as Michael Recchiuti, the noted chocolatier.  Carl  produces wonderful natural – wild yeast, unfiltered, unfined – wines –  his Rattlesnake Rose was one of our featured wines at last summer’s Rose Rountable –  and he was in Boston promoting his wines and Vermouth. 

The class was “industry ” heavy – several bartenders, a food and beverage consultant, a pastry chef and a brewmaster. And Carl was the perfect teacher. He likes to talk, talks well but most importantly knows what he’s talking about. We began with four Vermouths – Dolin Dry, Noilly Prat Dry, Martini and Rossi Rosato and the mother of all modern Vermouths, Carpano Antica Formula. Carl pointed out the difference between the oxidized style of the Noilly Prat with the non-oxidized Dolin and the different flavor profile – the Dolin delicate and floral, the Noilly Prat with a more vegetal cast.  The M&R Rosato is newly available in the American market and is a blend of pomegranate, raspberry, lemon and cinnamon. It is as as delicious as it sounds. The Carpano was noted for its prominent cola flavor, a result of the caramel used in sweeting this Vermouth. After tasting the four Vermouths, we moved on to Carl’s own. To a certain extent, Carl had deconstructed his Vermouth for this tasting. Of the seventeen botanicals he uses, he presented three – chamomile, dried orange peel and rosemary, each macerated in Carl’s base of  white wine fortified with brandy. The fun was in comparing these three flavors with the finished product. Throughout the class, Carl dispensed much information ranging from cocktail recipes to the San Francisco food and beverage scene to the folly of bad design to print sources of cocktail lore. He also discussed products he was working on such as a digestif and a sweet red Vermouth which, unlike traditional sweet Vermouth, is based upon red wine. But there were somethings he wouldn’t talk about – the exact seventeen botanicals and the sweetener he uses in his Vermouth. Even though he claimed to have only done this type of tasting once before, Carl never missed a beat – the class was informative, enjoyable and a great opportunity to meet the creator of a wonderful Vermouth. 

Also, kudos to Adam and his staff for such a well organized tasting. And the snacks were most thoughtful. 

For more information about upcoming classes at The Boston Shaker, check out the website.

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