Palmetto Cocktail

Palmetto Cocktail post image

Vermouth is a mainstay of classical cocktails.  The various red, white, sweet, and dry fortified wines show up all over the place in recipes involving whiskey, gin, vodka, and even rum.

Vermouth is also the theme for this month’s Mixology Monday, graciously hosted by the the pseudonymous “Vidiot” at the Cocktailians blog.  As Vidiot notes, vermouth isn’t often sought-after by most people in a bar, pointing out that vermouth “enjoys a somewhat better reputation among the cocktailian cognoscenti than it does among the greater public, but vermouth is similarly (and unfairly) maligned by many.

[Y]our challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to present a delectable vermouth cocktail for us all to drool over. Sweet/Italian or dry/French vermouth are fair game of course, as are quinquina, aperitif wines like Pineau des Charentes, or for that matter any fortified, aromatized wine such as Lillet (red or white), or Dubonnet (ditto.)

Being fairly lazy, I considered just submitting the El Presidente again, but being someone that loves more than one cocktail using rum and vermouth, I decided instead to present a different drink altogether.

The Palmetto is a drink that is based on the same premise as the Martinez, Martini, and Manhattan cocktails: equal parts spirit and vermouth with a little bitters. The only thing that seems like it could be wrong with this drink is the fact that its name doesn’t begin with an “m” like all of the others that came before it.

There are a few variants of the drink, and the proper one for your palate may depend on your preference for light spirits and dry vermouth or brown spirits with sweet vermouth.  The two variants don’t seem to have different names, but for the sake of clarity, I’ll affix some descriptors to them.

Dry PalmettoDry Palmetto

1.25 oz White Rum
1.25 oz Dry Vermouth
2 dashes Aromatic Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

The Dry version of the Palmetto is, in my humble opinion, an abomination.  While I haven’t tried every single combination of white rum and dry vermouth, the ones I have tried seem to certify this drink as an abject failure – and I say this as a huge fan of the Martini.

Sweet PalmettoSweet Palmetto

1.25 oz Aged Rum
1.25 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Orange Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemon or orange twist.

I don’t much like calling it a “Sweet Palmetto” – at my house this is just a Palmetto, and the Savoy Cocktail Book would seem to agree with me.  The switch from a rum martini to a rum manhattan transitions this drink from awful to awfully good, and has thusly made the Palmetto a staple for me at home.  I have yet to find an aged rum that won’t work in this drink, though I’m particularly partial to using El Dorado 15 Year Old or Mount Gay Extra Old.  As for the vermouth, well use what you like, but if you want this drink to really sing, grab yourself a bottle of Carpano Antica Formula.

Question for the day:

What’s your favorite rum and vermouth cocktail?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Yoav

    October 26, 2009, 10:55

    The different Vermouths can vary in sweetness, even if they’re all labeled as “sweet”. How would you compensate for a Vermouth that is drier than expected? A touch of simple syrup?

  • Matt Robold

    October 26, 2009, 19:36

    Hmm, I haven’t really encountered that, but I’m the rum guy, not the vermouth guy. A touch of syrup or sugar could work, or increase the vermouth, or use a sweeter rum. Lots of options.

  • Stevi Deter

    October 26, 2009, 20:41

    Sounds tasty.

    And that’s some nice garnish!

  • Frederic

    October 27, 2009, 08:26

    I would have to say a Fig Leaf or perhaps a Tango #2.

    The Fig Leaf:

  • Yoav

    October 27, 2009, 09:31

    Also, my avatar is a Rorschach test and I find the implied image highly offensive. It just perpetuates the stereotype that all aliens like probing cows. This is generally a false statement (although a few sicko aliens might indulge in an occasional probe). I demand a new avatar! Preferably something with a picture of a cat accompanied by a semi-intelligible caption that is supposed to be humorous.

  • Matt Robold

    October 27, 2009, 10:49

    Stevi: Thanks! I was washing my bar kit and had the channel knife in one hand and the peeler in the other and it just sort of dawned on me. Obviously other people have done it before, but it just seemed like it might be fun to contrast the two variants like that.

    Sorry, now I’m geeking out on garnish.

  • Matt Robold

    October 27, 2009, 10:50

    Frederic: The Fig Leaf looks interesting. Seems like it would be a really full-flavored drink. I’ll have to try one of those.

  • Dave

    October 27, 2009, 11:13

    I am still relatively new to the cocktail scene, and vermouth is one of those items that falls into the very broad category (for me) of “I have no idea what this brings to the party”, so I have yet to buy a bottle. I am also leery of purchasing a bad type of vermouth, so if any of you fine people have any favorite vermouths that are easily found, please enlighten me.

    I am sorry that I can’t play this round, Matt. 🙂

  • Matt Robold

    October 27, 2009, 13:23

    Dave, you are in luck. We’re here to help.

    Vermouth is something I didn’t really start experimenting with until the last year or so. If you want an endless font of information on it, I recommend checking out Paul Clarke’s voluminous collection of posts on vermouth as a great starting point.

    And if you’re looking for some great vermouth to start with, I like the Dolin Blanc and Dolin Dry for my white/dry vermouths and the Carpano Antica formua or the Vya for my sweet vermouth. If you’re interested in other fortified wines, I’m 100% in love with Kina Lillet Blanc and highly recommend it.

  • Tiare

    October 27, 2009, 17:44

    Very nice sounding drinks and i really like the garnish!


  • Mike

    October 28, 2009, 17:29

    Wow, nice drink and very nice pic!!

  • DJ HawaiianShirt

    November 1, 2009, 18:25

    Dood, I just made the Sweet Palmetto with some Bacardi 8, and it’s kicking huge amounts of ass.

  • El Capitan

    November 16, 2009, 19:08

    Skeptical, but never afraid, I went for it. And then thrice more, alternating ingredients, to give it a fair shake.

    Number 4:
    2 oz. Paso Fino White Rum
    1 oz. Punt E Mes
    1 oz. Noilly Prat
    dash Ango
    dash Ango Orange

    Nice? You bet your damn ass it is.

  • Matt Robold

    November 16, 2009, 21:00

    Oh, oh that sounds nice. I’m going to have to go try that, like right now.

  • Mike S.

    November 21, 2009, 18:31

    I love rum and I love vermouth (all kinds of both), so I’ve always been on the lookout for drinks that combine them. With few exceptions, I’ve been kind of disappointed. What you call the “Dry Palmetto” is similar to a recipe I dug out of the Internets a couple of years ago while doing some research on my favorite historic era of aviation — the Pan Am “Clipper” flying boats, particularly on the Pacific and Far East routes. Allegedly, the signature cocktail on the Pam Am Clippers was the predictably named “Clipper Cocktail”:

    1 1/2 oz light (or gold) rum
    1/2 oz vermouth*
    1/2 tsp grenadine
    Shake (I stir) and strain up.

    * The recipe I found provides no information on what type of vermouth was used. Given the call for light or “gold” rum, I assumed dry vermouth and have always made them that way (in fact, I’ve never tried it with red sweet vermouth). A white sweet (blanco or bianco) vermouth also seems to work well.

    Anyway, it’s pretty good and a drink I enjoy every now and again.



  • Dave

    December 29, 2009, 11:06

    Holy cats, Matt! I just found your e-mail post in my spam filter. Not where it belongs, for the record ;-). I stumbled across some Nolly Pratt (sp?) in ye olde friendly neighborhood liquor store this weekend, so I may give that a go and see if it is up to snuff. Thanks again for the tip, and I am sorry for taking so long to post a reply. I’ll be much quicker next time, I assure you.


  • El Capitan

    January 1, 2010, 15:35

    So, I got a few different Fee Bros bitters for Xmas, and the Aztec chocolate flavor was one. Been scratching my head with what exactly to do with it. Until…

    1.5 oz. Brugal Anejo
    1.5 oz. Carpano A
    dash Ango
    dash Aztec

    Actually comes out really balanced. The coco flavor is pretty prominent in those bitters, but ends up complimenting the drink overall. Anyways, thought it was worth a follow up comment – I’ve grown very fond of this drink thanks to you! Best, Dave

  • Tofukulele

    September 7, 2011, 21:55

    Wow! What an amazing drink! I made me palmetto with Cruzan single barrel estate, Cinzano rosso vermouth and Regan’s orange bitters. I’m not a fan of Manhattans, so I wasn’t expecting much. Imagine my surprise when this drink turned out to be nothing short of life altering! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Dagreb

    June 4, 2012, 10:15

  • Jason

    July 11, 2012, 20:21

    Ever thought of making a Perfect Palmetto?

    I wouldn’t know what kind of aged rum to use. One of you professionals might be able to help me out there.

    1 1/2oz aged rum
    3/4oz dry vermouth
    3/4oz sweet vermouth
    and I think a few drops of Bittermens ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters would be appropriate

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