What is Vermouth?

So: vermouth.

Maybe you’ve heard of this stuff in passing, as part of a laundry list of ingredients for some old-timey cocktail. You might best remember it as a dusty bottle in your parent’s drinks cabinet, or the bottle you crack open when your mother-in-law comes to visit, behind the crème de menthe, next to the Chambord?  Well now it’s time to show some love for vermouth, which is easy to make and even more delightful to quaff.

Since we all come to vermouth with different experiences, let’s start with the basics. Vermouth is a fortified and aromatized wine. Basically: wine spiked with brandy, infused with herbs and spices, and sweetened. There are two main varieties: red (sweet) vermouth, which originally hails from Italy, and white (dry) vermouth, which first appeared in France. Wormwood, of absinthe fame, is dry vermouth’s hallmark ingredient.

What is Vermouth?

More commonly known by the brand ‘Martini’, vermouth is simply fortified wine flavoured with botanicals, such as roots and bark, herbs and flowers.

As we’ve mentioned, botanical infusions are one of the big trends of the year, making it the perfect time to revisit this classic drink.

There are two versions of vermouth; the first is the traditional drink created by the Italians, also known as ‘sweet’ or ‘rosso’, which tends to be dark red in colour. This is used in popular cocktails such as Negronis and Manhattans.

The other is dry vermouth, also known as ‘bianco’, which was created in France, and forms a clear liquid with a dry taste – most commonly used in Martinis.

Let’s Go Back

Hailing from Italy, vermouth was initially created sometime in the 18th century, used for medicinal purposes. It grew in popularity until bartenders started to use it frequently in the 19th century, along with the French discovery of dry vermouth.

It’s a key ingredient to many cocktails that we have come to know and love – from Martinis to Manhattans. The first commercial drink ‘Carpano’ dates back to 1786 and is still in production today.

Not all vermouths are created equal. As with whiskey or gin, the quality of your vermouth makes a big difference. Sure, you’re often using just a small amount, but the flavors and aromas of vermouth stand out especially when there’s only one or two other ingredients in your glass.