Vermouth gets a bad rap, and I get that. But do you know what vermouth is and how it can be used to enhance a classic cocktail?
Vermouth is a fortified, aromatized wine, better known as an aperitif—did you know many Europeans drink vermouth straight? Don’t cringe. I know the flavor is hardly mouthwatering and the idea of straight vermouth, even if you’ve never tried it, probably makes your tongue shrivel. But the flavors are undoubtedly complex and worth understanding. Besides, some people like it.
Vermouth is infused with anything from roots to flowers, caramel to wormwood, which is the most traditional botanical used in this aperitif. The name vermouth actually comes from the German word Wermut, or wormwood. While less wormwood is used in the process today, the undeniable herbal flavor remains.
There are two main types of Vermouth, dry and sweet. Dry Vermouth is always white and has a higher alcohol content than sweet Vermouth, which is available in both red and white. I’ve read that Vermouth originated in Egypt. I’ve read that Vermouth originated in Rome. I’ve read that it was made for medicinal purposes, and I’ve read that it was the product of an attempt to mask bad white wine. While the reason for Vermouth’s first production is arguably undecided, one thing is common about the aperitif: Dating back to the 18th century, sweet Vermouth is the original of the two, with dry Vermouth making its debut in 1800.
So are you ready to get a taste of Vermouth? The aperitif is used in a surprising number of cocktails—Manhattans, martinis, negronis, Rob Roys, Americanos, gibsons—the list goes on. Here are a few recipes to get you started.
Combine ingredients in an old-fashioned glass over ice and stir. Garnish with an orange peel.
Pour Campari and Vermouth over ice in a glass. Add a splash of soda water and garnish with a slice of orange.
A Proper Martini
Pour ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Stir well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Squeeze oil from a lemon peel into the drink or garnish with a green olive.
1 oz Canadian Whiskey
1/2 oz Sweet Red Vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Combine whiskey, Vermouth, and bitters in a cocktail mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.