spirits, aperitif/digestif wine or liqueur, and sometimes other additions
This is our category to corral the wildly successful branch of cocktails that incorporated European aperitif and digestif products in addition to or in place of aromatic bitters; this category begins with the adoption of Italian and French vermouths by American bartenders in the late 1860s, the Manhattan, Negroni and Martini being the most famous examples, and extends through today’s fascination with Italian amari.
We don’t really know exactly where, why, or how vermouth infiltrated the American Bar, but we know it had a lot to do with the unification of Italy, its entry into global trade, and the forceful marketing of new Italian companies like Martini & Rossi in the Americas. A few French vermouth producers like Noilly Prat were also players. The recipe shown above, from Theodore Proulx’s 1888 book, explains what American bartenders did with the stuff: they tried substituting it in full or part for the base spirits of the drinks they were already making. The first such documented was the Vermouth Cocktail.
Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails, p. 751–2; barware icons courtesy of Haus Alpenz