When I first tasted Hammer & Tongs vermouth out of Portland for this story on
American vermouths, I was floored. I've never had a fortified wine with such expressive
flavors and deep complexity. The company makes two versions: the exotic Syrah-based
L'Afrique ($34.99 for 750 mL), with a impressive contrast of dark black cherry, cedar,
and chocolate flavors, and Sac'Resine ($39.99 for 750 mL) a floral and citrusy blend
with a Pinot Blanc foundation and incense-like botanicals like frankincense and myrrh.
Both are beautiful interpretations of what vermouth can taste like—they're lush and
juicy but still balanced with an appropriate amount of spice and herbal elements. I've
tasted a few cocktails in bars where they are used well, but with such unusual flavors, I
prefer letting their unadulterated nature shine by simply sipping them the rocks.