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Ten Best Punt e Mes Substitutes

Punt e Mes (pronounced poont-eh-mess) is a type of Italian vermouth, which is a fortified wine infused with various flowers, roots, seeds, herbs, and spices. Vermouth was traditionally used as a healing agent but later became popular with mixing enthusiasts as the main ingredient for cocktails. When it comes to cooking recipes, vermouth has also served as an alternative to white wine.

Vermouth was curated into two styles: sweet and dry. It’s formulated by taking a base of unfermented or neutral grape wine and infusing additional spirits (alcohol) and aromatic dry ingredients such as roots, herbs, and spices.

After the aromatization and fortification process has been completed, the vermouth is then sweetened with cane sugar or caramelized sugar relative to the style.

punte e mes

What is Punt e Mes Liqueur?

Punt e Mes was formulated in 1870 with a base of white wine and an infusion process of over forty herbs and spices, which included quinine and orange peel. This vermouth is traditionally paired with dark chocolate, a splash of soda, and an orange slice over ice.

Antonio Benedetto Carpano was the creator of the Punt e Mes vermouth, and it soon became popular in 18th-century Tulin (the old capital of Italy). The Carpano was a bar close to the Turin Stock Exchange, and customers who were brokers would frequently visit.

At the end of a trading day, when a stock would fall just a point and a half, these businessmen would order a particular style of the vermouth in their Piadmontese dialect: ‘Ca-m dag-n punt e mes’ which translates to ‘give me a point and a half’. This specifically refers to the cocktail being mixed with one part vermouth and another part of herbal infused liqueur.

Punt e Mes had the sweetness of classical vermouth but also contained the bitterness from the herbal essences that provide a unique drinking experience. This vermouth also comes in a variety of colors ranging from a golden topaz to dark red and even some black dahlia shades. 

Punt e Mes Liqueur used in Recipes

There is a wide variety of classic and modern cocktail recipes that call for the bitter-sweetness of the Punt e Mes liqueur. Some popular cocktail recipes introduced by the Carpano Distillery consist of the Punt e Mes Manhattan, the Milano-Torino, and the Punt e Mes Yes. Some other well-known cocktails include the Chocolate Italian, the Cornwall Negroni, the Chet Baker, and the Vagabond.

Punt e Mes Substitutes

1. Cynar

Cynar (pronounced Ch-NAHR) is a great alternative to the Punt e Mes vermouth, as it also contains a similar bitter-sweet taste. This is an Italian bitter liqueur that has essences of toffee, caramel, and mint, and was formulated with thirteen herbs and spices including the leaves of artichokes.

The name of this liqueur originates from the scientific name of the artichoke (cyanara), and the bottle’s logo also displays a green artichoke. Cynar has a lower ABV (alcohol by volume) content, sitting at just 16.5%, which allows it to be finely paired with a light drink such as a spritz cocktail.

This liqueur is dark brown with caramel flavoring and can be enjoyed straight, on the rocks, or in a mixed drink. Some well-known cocktail recipes that call for Cynar include the Bitter Giuseppe, the Maloney No. 2, the Cynar Negroni, and the Cynar Spritz. 

2. Averna

Averna is a popular Italian bitter liqueur that also has notes of caramel similar to Cynar. Upon tasting the bitter, it contains essences of citrus, rosemary, juniper berries, myrtle, citrus, anise, pomegranate, and the essential oils of bitter lemons. However, a lot of what is truly in Averna’s ingredients is kept a secret from the public.

This liqueur was introduced in the early 1800s and was said to be formulated by Benedictine monks of Abbazia Di Santo Spirito in northern Italy. Once the herbs, roots, and citrus ingredients are allowed to infuse within the base of Averna, it is then incorporated with water and sugar until it reaches about twenty-nine percent ABV.

The bitter-sweet flavoring of the Averna allows it to be a great substitute for the Punt e Mes, as it’s an approachable and flexible mixer. Even though it can be enjoyed neat, it’s typically served over ice as an after-dinner drink.

It’s also common to mix a splash of soda with an orange wedge or garnish with herbs such as sage, mint, and lavender to complement its caramel base. There is not a long list of cocktail recipes that specifically use the Averna liqueur as they are usually very simple. These cocktails include the Averna Limonata, the Caffe Tonic, the Beatnik, and the Vertigo. 

 3. Port Wine

This may be unexpected, but Port wine has also proved to be a great vermouth substitute. It’s typically a drink served after dinner or during dessert, but it’s also considered to be a great cocktail mixer. Port wine originates from Portugal, created to remain preserved during long journeys from the vineyards of Douro Valley to the town of Porto, from where it was then shipped to the rest of the world.

This is a great alternative for vermouth because it has a multi-layered herbal taste, a distinct sweetness, and higher alcohol content (varies by the producer). Port wine is typically a deep red, blackberry color, and the darker in color the longer it’s able to be preserved once opened.

According to Liquid Productions, Port can be mixed well with fresh fruit, berries, spices, vegetable juices, and teas. Some well-known recipes that include Port wine as a mixer include the Port New York Sour, the Improved Dunlop, the Port of Call, the Porto Flip, and the Lounge Chair Afternoon. 

4. Lillet Blanc

Lillet Blanc (pronounced Li-lay Blahn) is a floral, crisp, and lightly sweetened French aromatized wine. Aromatized wine is a wine that is mixed with brandy and then infused with spices, herbs, fruit, or other botanical essences.

It’s similar to vermouth due to this process, but it does not have any extra flavors added. This wine has seventeen percent ABV, similar to most commercial wines. Lillet comes in three different types which are the classic Lillet Blanc, Lillet Rose, and Lillet Rouge.

This wine pairs greatly with club soda for a light and refreshing tasting experience but also mixes well with classic cocktail recipes. Some of the well-known cocktails include the Vesper Martini, the Corpse Reviver No. 2, the Lillet Spritz, and the Lillet G&T. 

5. East India Solera Sherry

Similar to Port wine, East India Solera Sherry is a fortified wine, created in the 17th century by the East India Company, which transported goods and other commodities across the transatlantic. During the duration of these long trips, the wine turned to become smoother and more dimensional in taste expressing nutty, sweet flavoring.

This was due to the long-term exposure to higher temperatures, air, and wood on the ships. This drink is traditionally paired with cheeses, desserts, or as a savory beverage after dinner. This Sherry is a great alternative to the Punt e Mes vermouth as it’s balanced in sweetness and has similar tasting notes such as toffee, citrus, brown sugar, and caramel.

Some well-known cocktails that call for the East India Solera include the Vampire Blues, the Raisin Burn, the Eagle-Eye Cherry, the Death From Above, and the Solera Sidecar.

6. Cocchi Americano

The Cocchi Americano, created by Giulio Cocchi in 1891, also stands as an aromatized wine similar to the Lillet Blanc. This product is described as the tie between wine and liqueurs becoming a wine by adding a bittered “amaricato” to a curated cold infusion of alcohol, herbs, and spices.

These ingredients include white wine and botanicals such as gentian flowers, Cinchona, bitter orange peel, Artemisia, elderflower, and more. The Cocchi Americano is traditionally served chilled over ice, paired with seltzer to express its refreshing herbal essence.

This is a great choice as an alternative as it creates a light drink with notes of citrus. Some cocktails that mixologists use Cocchi Americano include the White Negroni, the Vesper Martini, the Corpse Reviver No. 2, and the Spritz Americano. 

7. Madeira

Madeira wine is a staple in French culture, enjoyed as a smooth beverage as well as a cooking wine paired with beef, pork, and chicken cuisines. It’s widely known as a fortified wine, originating from the island of Madeira in Portugal.

The body of this wine ranges from sweet to dry and like other mentioned fortified wines such as the Port and Sherry, the Madeira is curated with a distilled grape alcohol (typically brandy). Due to this, the product contains one of the highest alcohol by volume content in a wine, ranging from eighteen to twenty percent.

When serving, dry Madeira is recommended to be chilled between fifty-six to sixty degrees and sweet should be chilled to just below room temperature. When paired with food, dry versions of Madeira can be enjoyed alongside sushi, tangy salads, smoked salmon, cheeses, and fruity desserts.

Sweeter versions of the wine can be indulged with cheeses, dried fruits, honey, nuts, and dark chocolate desserts.  Some classic cocktails that call for the Madeira wine include Madeira on the Rocks, the Prince of Wales, the Baltimore Eggnog, the Atlantis, and the Queen of the Night. 

8. Carpano Antica

Carpano Antica is high-quality vermouth, a product of Italy formulated by Antonio Benedetto Carpano in 1786. This vermouth is described as a well-balanced liqueur with notes of vanilla, burnt sugar, saffron and wormwood. This is one of the pricer products on the list, however, it’s highly regarded as a premium mixer and even referred to as “the King of Vermouth”.

It proves to be a great alternative to the Punt e Mes, as it’s also a sweet base for refreshing cocktails. Some popular cocktails that are massively enjoyed with Carpano Antica vermouth are Vermouth and Soda, the Revised Manhattan, the Carpano-rita, and the Manhattan Royale.

9. Martini & Rossi

Martini and Rossi is a sweet vermouth that was developed by Luigi Rossi around 1863. This is considered to be one of the more iconic sweet vermouths, deep scarlet in color with notes of dark berries, caramel and spice.

Martini and Rossi contain a stronger herbal essence, making this a considerable alternative to the Punt e Mes vermouth. The full ingredients to this product remains largely unknown, but there is a composition of Italian herbs such as sage and bitter-sweet exotic woods.

This vermouth pairs beautifully with foods as well, more specifically nuts, cheeses, and savory meats. Classic cocktails that call for the infamous Martini and Rossi include the Barreled Age, the Hey Ya! cocktail, the Jackhammer, the Kiwitini, and the Gold.

10. Dolin

Originally crafted in 1821 by Joseph Chavasse, the Dolin Dry is referred to as a staple amongst fine French vermouths. In pop culture, this liqueur was popularized by James Bond and his iconic Dry Martini cocktail. This vermouth rests on the light and dry side of taste, with complex herbal notes that excite the senses. The Dolin serves well as a mixer, as it remains subtle and refreshing.

This product also pairs fairly well as a cooking agent, contributing layered essences to cuisines with raw shellfish, pesto, or goat cheese. It’s even said that it cooks better than most white wines. The Dolin shares a similar light body to the Lillet Blanc, but also has the note of dryness like the (dry) Madeira wine.

This is a great mixing alternative for curating a fresh, complex, and pure beverage to enjoy. Some well-known cocktail recipes that bartenders mix with Dolin Dryare the Spritz de Chambery, the Bronx, and the Bamboo.

Conclusion

In all, there is a wide variety of vermouths that are suitable to replace Punt e Mes if not available. All of these products vary in price, but each is also flexible and emphasizes unique flavoring in every cocktail or cuisine.

They may vary across countries of origin, within ingredients, and how each liqueur was formulated, but they all contain bitter-sweet herbal notes that awaken the senses and enhance your drinking experience. Though a majority of the vermouths’ ingredients remain a secret, all are fairly accessible to purchase either from your local market or through an online provider.

The products listed above will all be able to expand your mixing pallet, and also impress the bartender upon ordering a classic vermouth cocktail.