Vermouth: The Untold Story
Home mixology emerged in 2020 as an exciting new trend born of the necessity of avoiding social functions. Because of this new trend, many people are encountering the use of Vermouth in many of the cocktails they are discovering and rediscovering. But. . . what is Vermouth? We grew up thinking it was a mysterious ingredient in a Martini. As we got further along in our beverage journey, it became just another ingredient in different cocktails, but it is so much more!!!!!!
Vermouth is an aromatized white wine that has been fortified. Vermouth is aromatized using botanicals, which give different styles of Vermouths their unmistakable flavor profiles. Those botanicals include herbs (juniper, oregano, lavender, chamomile, ginger, coriander, angelica, etc.), spices (cloves, star anise, cardamom, vanilla, allspice, mace, etc.), citrus (orange peel, lemon or lime peel, bitter orange, bergamot, etc.), and bitter roots (licorice root, wormwood, cinchona bark, angelica root, etc.) Fortification of wine involves the addition of spirits to increase the alcohol content of the wine.
The name Vermouth is a French word derived from the German word “wermut” meaning Wormwood, which is one of the botanicals originally used as an ingredient in its production. Originally used medicinally in the 17th and early 18th century, Vermouth later gained popularity in the city of Turin (Torino), Italy where it was served as an aperitif (aperitif) and a digestive (digestif.) The advent of the cocktail in the late 19th century created a new use for Vermouth. To this day, Italy is famous for its sweet Vermouth. France, on the other hand, is noted for producing some of the best dry Vermouth.
There are three main styles of Vermouth: sweet, dry, and Bianco. A new and less-known boutique style is pink rosé Vermouth.
o Used for many well-known cocktails, such as Negronis, Manhattans, The Boulevardier, etc.
o French iterations are more floral and herbal
o Italian iterations are brighter and tangier
o AKA: Rosso, Rojo, or Red
o Pairs well with aged spirits like Bourbon, Rye, Scotch, and sparkling wine
o Typically bone dry
o Citrusy & Herbaceous
o Pairs well with lighter spirits like Gin, Vodka, Campari, Aperol, and Amaro
o Used for classic martinis and cutting the sweetness of saccharine liqueurs
o Floral and pleasantly sweet
o Has a bit more depth with notes of baking spices and vanilla
o Can be used in dry martinis, on the rocks, or with soda water.
o Herbaceous, spicy, floral, and citrusy
o Drink on the rocks or with your favorite mixer
o Fantastic in complex cocktails
Vermouth has a number of great stories related to famous people’s experiences with it:
Earnest Hemingway was a great fan of martinis. He loved small ones so that they didn’t get warm and was very specific about the recipe: “3/4 oz. gin, and just enough Vermouth to cover the bottom of the glass,” he wrote in a letter in 1949.
Hemingway also wrote a story about Vermouth in an article about a fishing trip off the coast of Havana in 1934. During the journey, the skipper Hemingway announced that it was time for a drink. The crew added French and Italian vermouth to the ice-filled glass, with a dash of bitters and lemon peel. This is an excellent, classic Vermouth cocktail worth exploring:
o 2 oz French Dr. Vermouth
o 1 oz Italian Sweet Vermouth
o 1 dash Angostura Bitters
o 1 Lemon Peel (or citrus peel of your choice!)
More current pop culture saw the Martini popularized by James Bond with his classic quote about his preference for “shaken not stirred!”
As we have seen, Vermouth earned its place on the bar. Whether you are “long in the tooth” or a novice mixologist, Vermouth is a great ingredient to explore, in all its forms. Many Vermouths are made for cocktails today, therefore, bottom shelf blends may not be especially pleasant on their own, instead chose a premium (top shelf) Vermouth if you are looking to enjoy it neat. When taking Vermouth neat, it’s served chilled, or in a chilled glass at the very least. It can also be served alone, over ice, often a citrus twist is added; lemon is best suited to a white blend, while orange complements a darker Vermouth.
Have fun with your new mixology ventures and drink what you enjoy!!!!