Vermouth Cassis Recipe – Au Petit Café – Hollywood, CA

This is the recipe for the famous aperitif Vermouth Cassis that Au Petit Café in Hollywood introduced to the United States in 1963; previous to this recipe and even today there are other versions of the aperitif that use Creme de Cassis instead of Sirop de Cassis however, this changes the taste of the drink completely. As a matter of interest we boosted the sales of Cinzano Dry Vermouth to spectacular levels as we were ordering at least 10 cases or more of it every month. The national distributor was so amazed, as before we introduced this drink, they were lucky to sell one bottle per restaurant every six months as only a drop or two was used for the Dry Martini Cocktail. Au Petit Café was the largest consumer of the dry vermouth in the country. With all the clones of Au Petit Café the distributor was doing very good business, so much so, that they printed our recipe on the back of the bottle in those days so that others would follow.
Although the recipe is very simple, as with most things, it is the ingredients and little details that make the difference. When I first opened Au Petit Cafe in the early 60’s, I used the Cinzano Dry Vermouth imported from Italy, until I found during the 70’s that it just did not not taste the same, after close inspection of the bottle I found (in very small print) that they were now making the product in California. So then the job of tasting every vermouth available on the market began and I settled on Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth (made in France), it was the closest in taste to the original Cinzano (made in Italy) but not exactly the same, in any case, I changed to that brand. The next ingredient is the Cassis and probably the most important. You must use the Sirop de Cassis that is lighter and does NOT contain alcohol; Creme de Cassis does contains alcohol and gives the drink a stronger, more concentrated flavor. I am using Monin (black currant syrup) from Dijon in Bangkok. Of course, I could only find the Creme de Cassis here, so I found the Monin Sirop in Tokyo and I hand carry it back. As long as you use a Sirop de Cassis from Dijon, France you will be all right.

Preparing the Vermouth Cassis:

1. Use small ice cubes or cracked ice not large cubes (I am using the clear ice cubes from Mt. Fuji, Japan)
2. Peel the yellow skin from a lemon, being careful to eliminate the white pith, by using a potato peeler, and with one stroke peel from the top to the bottom of the lemon and you will wind up with one strip about three inches long.
3. Pour the Cassis Syrup into the vermouth (use Cinzano or Martini Dry Vermouth from Italy or Noilly Prat from France) until a pink color is achieved and stir well to mix the ingredients (the color should not be too pale and not too red it must be PINK)
4. You will then take the lemon strip and with two hands squeeze it lengthwise with the outer side facing downwards into the glass to extract the oil from the lemon into the Cassis & Vermouth mixture and then drop it into the drink.

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