Old Noilly Pratt is new again

For as long as I can remember, I insisted any cocktails requiring dry vermouth as an ingredient be made with Noilly Pratt.

I own no stock in the company, know no one connected with it, and get no special treatment from said firm. What prompted my stance was simply this: The flavor and consistent quality of Noilly Pratt French Vermouth were above reproach. Or so I thought.

Eventually, I discovered that the version sold outside the U.S. borders, which I've tried in such diverse locations as Scotland, France and Ireland, has had more oomph, more quality. It's obvious that somewhere along the line, the original 1813 recipe was not being used in the French dry vermouth being shipped here.

Noilly Pratt recently officially announced what has been buzzing around the industry blogosphere for a while -- "the return of its original, classic blend to the U.S. market."

Ludovic Miazga of Noilly Pratt, France, says, "While U.S. consumers continue to explore the world of cocktails, they have turned their attention to authentic and sophisticated blends that speak to heritage and tradition.

"When early mixologists were writing the first cocktail books around the turn of the century, they reached for the original Noilly Pratt to provide an essential flavor and complex touch to their classic cocktails of the future. Now, once again, cocktail enthusiasts may taste the classics as they were meant to be enjoyed."

Noilly Pratt is aged for two or more years, and aged outdoors in oak casks for a full year before being blended with a secret combination of herbs and spices. In the aging court, called L'Enclos, the wines are directly exposed to the elements through the changes of season.

The vermouth was created by Joseph Noilly in 1813. It is a classic French apéritif created from Picpoul and Clairette grapes. The dry, full-bodied aged wines are infused with a blend of 20 herbs and spices, macerated directly in the wine for three weeks.

Noilly Pratt's packaging also has been changed. The new bottle shape, its designers say, was inspired by the Eiffel Tower and includes a pebbled surface to reflect the weathering effects the outdoor aging has on the wine. L’Enclos, the enclosure at the Noilly Pratt facility in Marseillan, France, is pictured on the front of the bottle. The suggested retail price of the 750ml bottle is $10.99.

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Peter Schumer, Orange Beach, AL said...

I recently read in the WSJ that my beloved Noilly Pratt Vermouth was soon to change formulas. Researching the subject, I discovered your Web site.

In your opinion, will the new formulation improve my V&V Martini? Or should I fill my cellar with the last of the old formulation?

William M. Dowd said...


My most recent experience with the Noilly Pratt recipe that now is being shipped to the U.S. was back in May during a cocktail lounge “crawl” in Edinburgh, Scotland.

As in all such things, preferences are very much a matter of individual taste. I liked it a bit more than the recipe we’ve grown used to in the States.

Anonymous said...

This is kind of like the 'new coke' and 'coke classic' fiasco. I don't know why Noilly Pratt chose to do this, but whatever their motivation, it wasn't out of concern for all of us martini drinkers. For that purpose, it is now unusable...unless, that is, you don't mind yellow, ridiculously wet martini's, which is what the new formula creates, no matter how little you use.

David Hossie said...

Dear Mr. Dowd:

I agree with one of the commentators as to the taste of the "new" formula. I might as well use Martini & Rossi.

One of the real problems is that (as recommended by Julia Child) I always used it in any recipe calling for dry white wine. She was right. It was superb!

My question is, do you know if the former one is still available anywhere? I sincerely hope so.

Thank you.

William M. Dowd said...


Given the preponderance of the Noilly Pratt we're used to, I'm sure the backlog of supply is quite large throughout the country. Only recently has the new formula entered the pipeline, so to speak.

Thus, if you're really wedded to the formula you've been experiencing, I'd suggest buying several cases and hanging on to them.

Bob Diebolt, Canada said...

I would like to associate my views with those of Mr. Hossie. The product seemingly no longer available is most definitely superior to the new formula.