It was while dining with his wife in the northern Italian resort town of Courmayeur on a hike through the Alps that Adam Ford first realized the romantic potential of vermouth – but first he noticed he was the only one there not drinking it.
Vermouth’s unique brandy-wine flavor, made fragrant by a strong blend of aromatic herbs and spices that Shang Dynasty medicine men once believed to have healing properties, had always struck Adam as rather disgusting. But his wife’s Italian heritage meant she had a soft spot for the drink, and soon enough self-proclaimed “boozehound” Adam came around to it. He began to see it as emblematic of a lost New York City golden age, one of glamour and glitter in the gutters lining debauched but dazzling nightclubs in the Bowery and along West Houston. And he began to realize that American vermouth itself was also trailing in the wake of a lost golden age of production, one that relied too much on botanicals and fell back on bland, simple ingredients.
After studying the production and history of the beverage, Adam was inspired to create a “new American vermouth” that updated the European stand-by recipes stocking shelves and bars by applying New World knowledge of wine, spirits, herbs and food, as well as a respect for artisanal ingredients and terroir, to make vermouth into a delicious, vibrant beverage in itself.
When it came to picking a name, he went with Atsby: a loose acronym for the “down and dirty” Assembly Theaters on Broadway in NYC that inspired the freewheeling-fancy personality of vermouth, especially in cocktails like the Manhattan, which was invented by a bartender there. Adam's 21st century take on this classic, transcendent drink might be inspired by the heady heyday of New York's nightlife underbelly, but we love that it's resurfaced to watch the sun rise on a whole new era of vermouth.