Antonio Benedetto Carpano was an Italian distiller in the late 1700s who paired a mixture of white wine with herbs and spices creating a product he would later call vermouth. Vermouth, from the German word "vermut" or "wormwood," is an aromatic wine fortified with grain or grape spirit. If you want to learn more about vermouth, enjoy my post: NY State of Mind from Sept. 2011 by clicking here. Carpano is classified as a digestif and is a great aid to digestion after a large meal, because after all Antica was created for medicinal purposes.
Carpano is a "premium" vermouth and as with most premium alcohols the flavor profile is extremely complex. To truly understand this complexity all you have to do is sip the Carpano over a large ball of ice. The moment the Carpano touches the ice a very strong flavor bursts from the glass. As the ice slowly melts, the dry bitter spice flavors begin to mellow and notes of chocolate, caramel, and berries begin to emerge (if you don't like the first sip, let it rest). This vermouth is fantastic in a cocktail like a Manhattan adding a deep rich bitterness that pairs nicely with the sweetness of a soft bourbon (something like Maker's Mark is perfect).
Carpano is only sold in a large bottle and does need to be consumed in a reasonable amount of time. Since it is a fortified wine it breathes like any other wine once the bottle is opened. I treat Antica as I would a fine port, drinking it within the first few weeks of opening for maximum flavor. I find that the bottle on the shelf lasts for about a month without "turning" and refrigeration adds a about 2-3 weeks more. The best way to tell if your Carpano is still drinkable is to taste it, it definitely won't hurt you or make you ill, so try it. If you like it then drink it!
This particular drink combines the Lillet Blanc, an aperitif with the digestif Carpano so it's great before or after dinner. Garnish with the zest of a fresh lemon and Regan's Orange to further accent the citric and bitter notes of both liqueurs.
2 oz Lillet Blanc
2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
Garnish with Lemon
Stir all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled wine glass. Garnish with lemon.