For a lot of drinkers, vermouth simply plays second fiddle to the gin or whiskey in their martini glass. That is, if they ask for vermouth at all. For Bianca Miraglia, vermouth is a rabbit hole for endless experimentation with aroma and flavor.
Miraglia started producing Uncouth Vermouth by herself during off-hours at the Red Hook Winery. With her ten (and counting) brands of vermouth currently featured everywhere from cocktail menus to tasting menu pairings, she’s moved her operations just a few blocks up on Van Brunt street to an all-in-one production site and tasting room.
When Miraglia started experimenting with vermouth, she discovered endless potential combinations of wine bases, fortifying spirits and botanicals. She became dedicated to replicating the production methods of true old world vermouth, which made mainstream brands, even those riding the appeal of revived recipes like Carpano and Cocchi, seem like high fructose corn syrup soda in comparison.
Uncouth Vermouth isn’t just unique when compared other vermouths. It stands alone in the slowly crowding world of craft spirits, where having the “made in Brooklyn” stamp can be a brand onto itself. “A lot of small batch bitters come out tasting like an altered version of Angostura bitters. I’m absolutely uninterested in making yet another 1800‘s style Italian vermouth,” said Miraglia.
Using only ingredients found within a hundred miles or so of New York City, Bianca also avoids using any processed sugar or sweeteners. She forages for many of her botanicals and relies on nearby Blooming Hill Farms for heftier ingredients like beets and serrano chili peppers. For all of the physical work it takes to source ingredients, in Bianca’s experience “vermouth is actually a great way to get back in touch with nature.”
Many tasting rooms look like gift shops, but Bianca’s feels like a cozy living room. A venerable iron sign for JKH Fowler Wine Merchants hints at her past job at a Fort Greene wine store. And those black and white portraits lining the wall aren’t anonymous vintage kitsch, they’re her real life ancestors. Posted alongside them are the subversive and surreal collage works of Paris based artist Matthew Rose, who lends Bianca his artwork to appear on the bottling of each new brand of vermouth.
On how their overseas collaboration got started, Rose recalls, “A few wine stores in Paris were starting to carry vin nature. On a visit to Brooklyn, I called a wine store to see if someone there could put together a twelve pack of natural wines for me. The person I spoke to was Bianca.”
Not a wine expert himself, Matthew trusted Bianca to assemble something unique for him. Weeks later, Bianca received a package. It was one of Matthew’s prints, with bold black letters reading: “Fuck you & your politics.” Bianca instantly knew she had met a kindred spirit.
In recounting the beginnings of their friendship, Matthew described tasting her vermouths akin to “getting to know her personally. She is such an open minded, knowledgable and honest person. Her vermouths express that and they express what is possible nowadays in Brooklyn. Craft beer is only just starting to become popular in Paris. The youth aren’t even interested in wine.”
Setting out to make a contrarian visual statement to classic vermouth brands, Bianca wanted to use unconventional artwork as the labels for her bottles. When she asked Matthew if he knew any artists she could hire, he offered her free use of his entire catalogue. Bianca often jokes that she’s still “hoping to pay him back one day by buying one of his original works.”
Uncouth Vermouth is a powerful and compelling argument for many things. For being unafraid of big brands and trends. For drinking vermouth straight. For championing the surreal over formalism. For New York City having its own terroir. Terroir should express not only the flavors that come from the soil, but the mentality of the person that turns it into something delicious. Uncouth is a mentality that should only get more interestingas Bianca keeps producing vermouths seasonally, noting that “every new vermouth I make is my favorite because I get bored with the last batch. There are always new things to try.”
Uncouth Vermouth is being used in many cocktail bars around New York City and is also available for purchase in wine stores such as Chambers Street Wines and Astor Wine and Spirits. For a totally unique experience, and the opportunity to taste new products like a hopped up vermouth, you’ll just have to visit her tasting room and ask her to pour you some.