Fine Wine Archives Wine and Food Diary of Giles MacDonogh

Noilly Prat

Written by Giles MacDonogh

I had a big treat in the middle of the month: I went down to Noilly Prat in Marseillan. The vermouth is made near Sète on the southern French coast and they are currently celebrating their bicentenary. It wasn’t my first visit, but in my senility I find it hard to put my finger on when I was there last, a British Airways boarding card wedged into the Histoire ancienne et moderne de Marseillan tells me only that I came back on 18 September. The year is not specified, and I travelled in Club – those were the days!

For the uninitiated, Noilly Prat is the vermouth at the heart of many cocktails, not least a classic dry Martini. I came across it first as an undergraduate when we were allowed to top up our 18p measures of gin with as much vermouth as we liked for 2p. This extended form of a ‘Martini’ was called a ‘gin and French’, and quite a bargain for 20p. Mixed with sweet, red vermouth, the drink was called a ‘gin and It’ – gin and Italian. ‘Gin and mixed’ combined green and red. I never saw anyone drink that. It must have been an ugly colour.

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Giles MacDonogh

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