There’s nothing like hearing a bottle is impossible to get hold of to make you want to buy it so the news (via Jared Brown of Mixellany) that Noilly Prat Ambré was no longer available in the UK made me instantly snap one up here in France when I spotted it on the shelf.
Noilly Prat, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is a famous vermouth which once boasted the slogan ‘Say Noilly Prat and your French will be perfect’ (It’s nwa e pra not noily prat - not that my French is up to much.)
It’s made in the small town of Marseillan on the Languedoc coast and - like madeira - is aged in barrels that sit outside in the scorching sun. The original is a pale but heavily aromatised vermouth that is a classic component of a martini* but the Ambré which also contains orange and vanilla is much richer and sweeter, more like a herb-infused Pineau de Charentes.
Jared tells me (via Facebook) his favourite way of drinking it is “on the rocks, sometimes with a twist. I have made martinis with it, using the original 1:1 ratio, with a lemon twist. I have even used a bit more vermouth than gin. This pairs well with oysters, especially if you happen to be sitting harbourside in Marseillan. It’s lovely in a Manhattan, but I’m really a traditionalist there: Martini Rosso is still my favourite in a Manhattan."
I haven’t explored a fraction of the possibilities but can vouch for the ‘on the rocks’ serving - I’m actually keeping it in the fridge. And the good news is that it does occasionally seem to be available in the UK: at The Whisky Exchange (for £16, though not at the time of writing) and I imagine Gerry's of Old Compton Street could get hold of some though they don't appear to have it on their website.
So if you’re anywhere near Marseillan or a wine shop in the Languedoc snag a bottle. Mine cost only 11.60€ (£10) so was quite a bit cheaper than you'll find it elsewhere.
If you spot Ambré anywhere else let me know!
* And also a good addition to many fish dishes.
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