As soon as the National Weather Service predicted a four-day heat wave for early October we started pulling together an it’s too hot to get off the couch survivalist checklist as seriously as any cast member of Nat Geo’s Doomsday Preppers. However, because our mini-apocalypse is so short term – the NWS predicts temperatures to start dropping by Sunday – our provisions extend mostly to cold prepared foods, a tantalizing DVR queue, and a big bag of party ice in the freezer. Then, just to be safe, we checked in with Lou Amdur of Lou Wine & Tastings to talk about refreshing beverages.
Squid Ink: Science tells us one way of cooling down is by drinking hot liquids that signal to your brain that it is time to start sweating. Great: First we're really hot and now we're hot and sweaty. Please tell us that you have other suggestions.
Lou Amdur: Right now all I can fathom drinking are crisp and mineral white wines; lighter-bodied reds that can take a bit of time in the ice bucket; beer; and cider. For crisp and mineral whites, Domaine de l'Ecu "Granite" Muscadet. Don't confuse Muscadet with muscat.
SI: What’s the way that even a numbskull can tell the two apart?
LA: Muscadet is a growing region on the north Atlantic coast of France, known for its dry, acid-driven wines; muscat is a grape. Muscadet never, ever contains any muscat, a profound Muscadet grown on granite soil — granite is relatively rare in Muscadet country, but is worth looking out for, as it yields age-worthy wines with great texture and stunning minerality. You can enjoy this wine with oysters, but also with fatty cuts of meat, such as roast pork (without BBQ sauce).
SI: What about beer?
LA: For beer, well, you hardly need my advice on beer…
SI: Beg your pardon?
SI: What? That’s a pale ale from France, right?
LA: Ya. For ciders, look for Goussin, Zangs (warning: funky). My current favorite, Ciderie du Vulcain's Trois Pepin (a blend of quince, apple, and pear).
SI: Got it. By lighter-bodied reds, do you mean Beaujolais?
LA: Beaujolais, of course. Julien Sunier's Régnié is a pure cherry bomb — I love it. I sometimes worry about using "cherry" as a descriptor.
LA: It elicits bad memories of Luden's cough drops or candy. But this wine is nevertheless packed with pure, fresh cherry flavors, not candy cherry and without any sugar.
SI: What sort of heat-beater do you suggest when it comes to cocktails?
LA: Vermouth cocktails.
SI: Do you sell vermouth at Lou’s Wine & Tastings?
LA: Right now I have Atxa vermouth from Spain in the shop and am waiting impatiently for the return of my favorite reasonably priced vermouth, Primitivo Quiles's, to be available again.
SI: We just read about a cocktail with vermouth called Dreams That Never End. Typically we’d think this would have a positive ring — but in 100-plus-degree weather, it sounds sort of frightening. Thoughts?
LA: Dreams that never end? That does sound ominous.
SI: What’s your recipe for a cheer-inducing vermouth cocktail?
LA: It's not really an exact science, but I follow this general recipe: Rub a piece of lemon peel inside the rim of a tall glass, and then swirl a few drops of your favorite bitters in the glass. I dig the Miracle Mile Bitters yuzu bitters — super aromatic, and it really captures the complexity of the fruit. Fill with cracked ice, then pour in a good glug of cold Atxa red vermouth — maybe 2-3 ounces, or more if you're in the mood for it.
SI: Then what?
LA: Fill the rest of the glass with a chilled dry sparkling wine — don't cheap out and use some garbagey industrial wine, but also don't splash out for anything fancy. I recommend a good, crisp Cava, such as German Gilabert. Stir with a swizzle stick. Caution: It's all too easy to over-drink this delicious application of vermouth because it ends up tasting a bit like an adults-only Coke.