Vermouth: a Delicious Drink – More Than a Martini Accessory

If you’ve eaten vermouth, it’s likely been in a martini or in Manhattan, but it’s unlikely you’ve ever been offered it neat. Fortunately, vermouth is becoming the real thing in the United States, with entire bars dedicated to this complex, aromatic, fortified wine. Keep reading to find out what vermouth is, how to choose it, and what to do with it.

What is vermouth?

Vermouth belongs to one of my favorite wine families: the aperitifs . The word “aperitif” means “to open,” and these spirits are designed to prepare you for your meal by making this gastric juice flow with its characteristic bittersweet taste. To get this special aromatic city, sweet low alcohol wine is “aromatized,” which means that parts of plants (herbs and plants) are added to the wine to give it flavor and color.

The list of plant substances that can be used in making vermouth is extensive and varied, but contenders include licorice, mace, lavender, cardamom, St. John’s wort, gentian and anise (to name a very small percentage). Just as these plants vary greatly in taste, so do vermouth, and good vermouth will have a complex, herbaceous, obscure flavor profile that will keep you interested. Good luck finding out exactly what you are trying, as the botanicals are proprietary and strictly protected by the producers.

But for wine to be considered vermouth, there are not enough herbal ingredients; vermouth should be both flavored and fortified. Fortification simply means that you make the product a little stronger, add alcohol (such as a neutral grape brandy), and increase the strength. Aside from adding a little extra appeal, the higher ethanol content helps the wine last a little longer, but it will still oxidize over time. To get the most out of your bottle, keep it in the refrigerator for at least a month. (It won’t actually become “bad” in the sense that it will harm you, but it will taste a little odd.)

How to choose vermouth from an endless variety of options

Vermouth is one of those perfumes that are difficult to categorize into small neat categories. While most red vermouths are sweet and most white vermouths are dry, there are many exceptions and variations, and (as with sexuality) I like to think of vermouth as a spectrum rather than a limited binary set. However, there are a few general categories that you should be familiar with in order to better navigate your liquor store and bar:

  • Sweet Red: This is the classic Italian vermouth found in Manhattan or Negroni. Its pronounced reddish color acquires a caramel color, and its sweetness is due to the sugar syrup, which is added before the wine is fortified. Italian vermouths usually fall into this category and have a pleasant, slightly bitter taste that balances out the sweetness. If you see a vermouth with the word “rosso” on the bottle, then you are looking at a red Italian vermouth. Bottles to try : Cocchi Vermouth di Torino (arguably the best sample of vermouth from the Turin region), Martini Rosso (very easy to find), Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Rouge (good balance of bitter and sweet with a slight piquancy .), Carpano Antica Formula (known for its unique vanilla notes).
  • Sweet White: This is a fresh, fruity and floral style that makes for a great summer cocktail or dessert wine. Bottles that are worth a try: Dolin Blanc (herbs, less sharp than its counterpart rosso), Contratto Bianco (well in a martini with notes , but it would be strange olive), Martini Bianco (pleasant notes of vanilla).
  • Dry white: this is your martini friend. This light, much less sweet (sugar content 4% versus 10-15% sweet) vermouth is like the light strong, slightly herbal white wine that it is. Bottles to try: Dolin Dry (my personal favorite; I sip a little to write this), Noilly Prat Original French Dry , Martini Dry (very easy to find).
  • Punt e Mes : Although this vermouth is technically in the sweet red category, I will highlight it because I think it is really special. The name, which literally translates to “point and a half,” seems to refer to one point of sweetness and half of the bitterness that you will enjoy when you drink this wonderful liquor. I’m a big fan of bitters, so the distinct, almost Campari-like flavor of Punt e Mes makes it one of my favorite vermouths for just about any cocktail, but I wouldn’t mind a small, neat glass. can be garnished with orange or grapefruit zest.

Everyone has different tastes, so play around with different styles and brands until you find one that suits your needs. Fortunately, vermouth is fairly affordable as most bottles cost around $ 15 and some stores even sell smaller sizes.

Making a cocktail

Now comes the fun part. Vermouth is often used to complete and finish off classic cocktails like martinis and Manhattan, but it is quite capable of playing a major role in its own drink. Here are a few of my favorite cocktails that contain vermouth. Let’s start with the classics:

  • Classic Martini: 2 ½ ounce gin (dry recommended, but Hendrick’s is fine for something slightly different) + ½ ounce dry vermouth. Toss with ice for about 15 seconds and strain into a compartment or martini glass. Garnish with olive oil or twist.
  • Manhattan: 2 ounces rye whiskey (or bourbon if needed) + 1/2 ounce sweet red vermouth + a few drops of Angostura bitters. Stir all ingredients with ice for 15 seconds and strain in compartment. Decorate with Luxardo cherries.
  • Vieux Carre: Celebrated at Bar Carousel in New Orleans, this cocktail is arguably one of the most balanced and delicious drinks you will ever taste. ¾ ounce rye whiskey + ¾ ounce sweet vermouth + ¾ cognac + 2 tsp Benedictine + 2 dashes of Peixo bitters + 2 dashes of Angostura bitters. Toss all ingredients with ice for 15 seconds and strain into a chilled lowball up or over one large ice cube. Decorate with Luxardo cherries.
  • The Diplomat Cocktail: This is where vermouth really shines. I discovered this the night before, telling my bartender that “I need to be entertained for an hour so I don’t get too faded.” He spurred on this low-grade pleasure, and now I’m obsessed. 1 ½ ounce dry vermouth + 1 ½ ounce sweet vermouth + ounce maraschino liqueur + 2 drops of orange bitter. Toss all ingredients with ice for 15 seconds and strain into a compartment glass. Squeeze the oil out of the lemon zest and rub over the edge of the glass.

If this all seems like too much work, don’t worry; You can still enjoy this fortified aromatic wine. Just grab a bottle of Punt e Mes, pour it into a glass and take a sip. Side effects include feeling very European.


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