The Whisky Exchange
Aged: No age statement
Product of: Italy
A vermouth created in 1870 and named after a Milanese stock broking term, it is made by adding over forty herbs and spices, including orange peel and quinine, to white wine. Traditionally served over ice with the merest splash of soda and an orange slice, accompanied by dark cocoa-rich chocolate.
In the late 18th century, Antonio Benedetto Carpano set up his wine bar in the Piazza Castello, in the centre of Turin. Soon after opening he set about creating a new drink to better suit delicate palates than the robust table wines of the region. In 1786 he launched Carpano. This was the first commercial vermouth and was basically a dry white wine, lightly fortified with alcohol, sweetened and flavoured with an infusion of aromatic herbs. His business was a great success and he was succeeded by his nephew, Guiseppe Bernardino whose initials still front the company's name G B Carpano.
Punt E Mes was created by Carpano in 1870 and its popularity soon ousted bars' other vermouths. In those days, individual customers would specify the style of vermouth they wanted, choosing between bitter and sweet and requesting particular herbs and spices which would be drawn from bottles behind the bar. As in today's coffee shops, a language grew around the terms for each style of drink being ordered.
Turin was then the Italian capital and The Carpano bar was frequented by customers from the nearby Turin Stock Exchange. At the end of a particular day's trading, when some key stocks had just fallen by one and a half points and the bar was full of traders, a businessman ordered a particular style of bitter-sweet vermouth in Piadmontese dialect: 'Ca-m dag-n punt e mes' ('Give me a point and a half').
He was simply requesting one and a half points of bitterness to be added, but those around him laughed at the coincidence to their discussions on that day's trading fall - and so the drink was created and named.
Stockbrokers at the Carpano bar used to show off by ordering the drink using a stockbroking hand signal. They would hold up one thumb (a point) and then draw their hand horizontally through the air, indicating a half.
The company remained family-owned until being taken over first by Silvio Turati, a Turin industrialist, and then by Fratelli Branca. Sadly an air-raid in 1943 destroyed the original Carpano bar.
Punt E Mes is made with more than ten different botanicals, including orange peel and quinine, to a blend of dry white wine.
Review and Tasting
Sampled on 06/06/2011
Clear, dark reddy-brown.
Aromatic with cinnamon, a hint of smoky tobacco, Christmas tree in a warm room and Christmas spices.
Bittersweet with lightly syrupy honeyed notes, stewed fruit including: damson, sloes, cherries, prunes, vanilla, cinnamon, tobacco, a touch of red pepper, bitter cranberry and orange zest.
Round fruity finish with well-judged bitter tannins.