Before my first taste of a new vermouth from one of Denver's few urban wineries, the sweetish herbal concoction was just another ingredient in my favorite vodka martini. At the Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery at 3200 Larimer Street, I discovered the unique, stand-alone virtues of a glass of vermouth. In addition to the red and white wines made at the 15,000-square-foot facility in RiNo (there's also a tasting room at Stanley Marketplace in Aurora and a second winery in Austin, Texas), Infinite Monkey Theorem is now making vermouth with help from The Block Distilling Co., which just opened a few blocks away.
Like sherry or port, vermouth is a wine fortified with distilled alcohol; distillers at the Block extract the alcohol from IMT's leftover grape-skin mash. Vermouth derives its unique taste and aroma from the added herbs and spices, especially wormwood, from which the beverage gets its name. The word "vermouth" comes from "wermut," the German word for wormwood.
Infinite Monkey Theorem uses riesling and chardonnay as the base for its two white vermouths, and will add a rosé vermouth just in time for a little Christmas cheer (look for it beginning December 18). The vermouths are available only on tap, to be enjoyed in the winery's comfortable urban-chic tasting rooms. (The company's other wines are available in bottles, cans and growlers to go.) It’s a “secret vermouth society,” says David Goergen, who manages IMT's three locations.
Vermouth is stronger than regular wine at 16-18 percent alcohol by volume (compared to the 9-14 percent ABV of typical wines), so sip slowly and perhaps have a bite to eat before heading out (and consider alternative transportation if you plan on having more than one).
Of the two Infinite Monkey Theorem vermouths I tried, the dry riesling-based version was my favorite. The unique perfume-like aroma of the wormwood combined with notes of lemon peel and cinnamon gave the fortified wine an exotic taste. It was even better with a top-off or “float” of the award-winning Bubble Universe sparkling albariño. The chardonnay-based vermouth has a refreshing (not oak-laden) taste, with spicy hints of star anise and cinnamon. As with all of its wines, Infinite Monkey Theorem uses primarily Colorado-sourced grapes.
In addition to discovering the virtues of vermouth, I learned the origin of the winery’s curious name. The Infinite Monkey Theorem postulates that given an infinite amount of time, a monkey hitting random keys on a typewriter will eventually produce the works of Shakespeare. Not sure the Bard would have agreed — but he certainly would have enjoyed the vermouth.
The Infinite Monkey Theorem Denver taproom is open Monday from 4 to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 2 to 10 p.m. The Aurora taproom at 2501 Dallas Street is open Monday from 3 to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. The Denver Infinite Monkey Theorem is hosting a special New Year’s Eve party, with extended hours, DJs and food vendors; visit the winery's website for more information.