The Italian Antonio Benedetto Carpano (1751-1815) deserves the honour of having invented wormwood in 1786 and of having given it the name that later became known as the Punt e mes brand. But the fame for the first dry wormwood is due to the Frenchman Joseph Noilly. The herbalist produced many different fragrant drinks and liquids from absinthe to eau de Cologne in his fragrance laboratory in Marseille. In 1813 he developed the recipe for dry vermouth and began to produce it in small quantities. His son Louis Noilly (+1865) founded the Noilly company in Marseille and, supported by his son-in-law Claudius Prat (+1859), began to market the wormwood worldwide.
In 1850, storage cellars were built in the port city of Marseillan in the south of France(Hérault), where production has been taking place ever since. Prat then became a partner in 1855 and the company now traded under the name of Noilly Prat & Cie. After the death of the two partners, the widow Anne-Rosine Prat took over the management with the support of her sons. From the 1870s, the drink conquered the markets in France and the USA. Today, the company is managed by the family descendant François Bonnardel, but is under the control of the Italian wormwood company Martini & Rossi.
Still today this wormwood, known as "Original French Dry", is produced according to the old recipe for success. The basis are two white wines from the South of France from the varieties Piquepoul Blanc and Clairette. The wines are initially stored in the cellars for months. Then they mature for a year in used 600-litre oak barrels under the open sky and are exposed to wind and weather during this period, both the sun in summer and the cold north winds in winter. This simulates the circumstances of months of transport on ships, which had already proven to be positive for aroma and colour in the Portuguese Madeira. Only then are the wines blended into a cuvée and slowly flavoured with an alcoholic extract of 20 secret herbs and spices from all five continents.
Compared to an Italian wormwood, the Noilly Prat is darker and spicier. There are the dry versions Original French Dry and Extra Dry, the fine sweet Blanc and Rouge and the sweet Ambre. Noilly Prat is traditionally served pure and only slightly chilled (usually no ice cubes), but is also a popular ingredient in many cocktails. For the famous martini cocktail made to a classic recipe, the Italian martini or dry Noilly Prat is preferred.