Too sweet to be a bitter and too bitter to be a sweetener, Dimmi defies easy categorization. A 21st-century addition to the aperitivo canon, the Milanese liqueur’s complex palate has quickly earned it a spot in backbars across the U.S.
Based on an original vermouth recipe developed in the 1930s, Dimmi (Italian for “tell me”) was launched by Paolo and Antonio Sperone, a pair of third generation, spirit-producing brothers, in 2005. But it was their grandfather, Giacamo Sperone, who began producing a historic version of the liqueur in Torino, Italy, before moving production to Milan just after the second World War. It’s there, in Milan, that Dimmi is made today in its current incarnation: a riff on the original vermouth that finds its unique flavors via two separate infusions.
Dimmi Baby One More Time
The first, which closely resembles the original recipe, relies on a blend of herbs and extracts like wormwood, licorice, bitter orange, ginseng and vanilla; in the second, the formula is balanced by a more floral infusion of peach and apricot essences for a decidedly contemporary flavor profile. A small measure of nebbiolo grappa unites the opposing elements of this sharp, sweet spirit.
“Dimmi works as it’s not an overtly powerful spirit,” explains Seattle-based bartender Jamie Boudreau, whose Absinthe Frappé at Canon uses the liqueur to sweeten and complement the classic combination of absinthe, mint and sugar. “The licorice notes tie in with the absinthe, with the citrus and vanilla playing along as well.”
Likewise, Chaim Dauermann of New York’s The Up & Up relies on the complexity of Dimmi to lend sweetness to his Gambol and Snap without veering into the saccharine. “Dimmi is a wonderful ingredient to use in cocktails when you are looking to lend a drink a crisp, floral element … without adding much sweetness,” he says. His effervescent, springtime drink features the Italian spirit alongside tequila and conjures up stone fruit, melon and marmalade.
The appeal of the liqueur also extends to its versatility; it plays well with both dark and light spirits. Brian Sturgulewski of Chicago’s Celeste goes in both directions, often pairing Dimmi with Scotch—“It softens the smoke or woodiness that some find too harsh”—as well as with Kappa Pisco in his Chance Encounter. “Dimmi’s flavor profile has a resemblance to apricot,” he explains, which enhances the floral notes of pisco in the citrusy cocktail. Shaken with lemon and a splash of the historic French aperitif, Salers, the drink, much like the spirit itself, is a nod to the old and new.