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220 × 171 × 20 mm
272 pages
130 illustrations, 80 in colour
18 Nov 2019

Strong, Sweet and Dry A Guide to Vermouth, Port, Sherry, Madeira and Marsala Becky Sue Epstein

Today fortified wines are enjoying a renaissance, rediscovered by discerning imbibers and modern mixologists all over the world. Once extremely popular drinks savoured before or after dinner, fortified wines – such as sherry, port and Madeira – fell out of favour in recent times. But now, in pubs and wine bars, high-end restaurants and homes, these wines are finding their way into innovative cocktails and are being appreciated anew for their fine qualities and strong, complex flavours.

This is the ultimate guide to these freshly rediscovered wines. In lively style, Becky Sue Epstein surveys the latest trends, along with stories of the merchants, warriors and kings who helped create these wines. Featuring fine images along with anecdotes, facts, history and cocktail recipes, this is a superb tour of the long history of fortified wines and their global resurgence today.

Winner of The Readable Feast 2020’ — Drinks category

Shortlisted for the Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards 2020’ — Drink Book Category

‘Sip, sip hooray, for a new book on some overlooked stars of the drinks world . . . Strong, Sweet and Dry delves into the complex history of these aromatic fortified wines and makes a case for the current revival among mixologists. This is a serious book, crammed with facts, but it's clearly written, with some intriguing glimpses into the past, plus there's a section on cocktails for getting more out of these vinous gems.’ — Delicious Magazine

‘The drinks announced in the subtitle of Becky Sue Epstein’s book evoke the arcane charms of the Old World, but have, in recent years, made a comeback among bartenders and mixologists. Epstein narrates their history while also liberating them from the dusty drinks cabinet. A first chapter on vermouth, essential for the now near-ubiquitous negroni – a heady blend of vermouth, aromatics and fortifying spirit – prepares the reader for the cocktail of genres that follows: travelogue and history mix with guidance, a glossary (for the more arcane terms of the drinking arts) and recommended reading. Epstein’s wines make striking historical cameos.’ — TLS

‘Epstein takes her readers on a memorable adventure into villages and around the countryside in Spain, France, Sicily, and Cyrus (among other places), weaving the tales of these spirits through history while illuminating producers’ techniques and the flavor profiles of individual spirits. Epstein’s book contains cocktail recipes, too, so here’s a gift you could give anyone.’ — Martha's Vineyard Magazine

‘What do Vermouth, Port, Sherry, Madeira, and Marsala wines have in common? They are all fortified wines (the "strong" part of the book title). You probably have bottles of several if not all of them stashed away somewhere in the back of the wine closet, although you might not have thought about them in a while. And they are all delicious. Time you brought them out of the closet and onto the table where they belong! Epstein's entertaining and informative new book is just the nudge you need to do it . . . Strong, Sweet and Dry inspired us and I think it will inspire you to try something new that's also something old. Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘Becky Sue Epstein has the ability to dig deep into the background and culture of drinks from around the world, bringing out snippets of information that evade many other writers. She dips briefly into the history of her fortified wine topics, but rather than get weighed down with how things were in the past, she is more interested in the current status of the wines. She weaves methods of winemaking, grape varieties and ageing into an easily digested format, bring out the directions of each industry as it adapts to changing markets. She then rounds off with a selection of cocktail recipes that adds another dimension to the enjoyment of these wines.’ — Yorkshire Post

‘Becky Sue Epstein's fresh-take on these oft-overlooked treasures takes you through the fascinating past, where the origins of Vermouth, Port, Sherry, Madeira and Marsala are revealed, traces their contemporary trends and discusses their modern relevance. Strong, Sweet and Dry is a wonderful read for professionals and passionate connoisseurs alike!’ — Debra Meiburg MW, Master of Wine & Director, Meiburg Wine Media

‘Ever wondered the difference between a vermouth and a sherry and when you should be drinking them? Refine Dad’s palate – and your own – and learn about fortified wines (plus, cocktail recipes!) with this new book by Becky Sue Epstein.’ — Houstonia Magazine

‘“Rich wines, generous wines, strong wines”, is Becky Sue Epstein’s characterisation of those aromatic and potent concoctions – from vermouth to Port, Madeira to vin doux naturel – that have been with us for centuries but are still so commonly misunderstood. Epstein, a wine commentator of huge experience, pulls on a robust pair of cracked leather hiking boots and strides gamely into this great historical sweep . . . As a guide she’s engaging’ — Club Oenologique

Strong, Sweet and Dry is an extraordinary voyage de-mystifying the aromatized and fortified wine world and the timing couldn’t be better. Americans are enjoying the world of port, sherry, vermouth and Madeira in some cases for the first time in their cocktails! We have officially rediscovered the wet Martini and we have amazing choices for vermouth in our Manhattans. This book needs to be on your reading list.’ — Dale “kingcocktail” DeGroff

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Becky Sue Epstein is an author and journalist in the fields of wine, spirits, food and travel based in Massachussets, USA. She is the author of many books on wine, spirits and food including Champagne: A Global History and Brandy: A Global History, both published by Reaktion Books.


1 Vermouth
2 Port
3 Sherry
4 Madeira
5 Marsala
6 Vin Doux Naturel
7 Worldwide Fortified Wines
Cocktail Recipes

Photo Acknowledgements