Vermouth makes a comeback!



How do you feel about the big comeback of ‘old-school’ drinks such as gin, sherry and vermouth?
Ok, gin is by far the most established trend, but Sherry and Vermouth are steadily following.

When I visited Seville, Spain last month I saw firsthand the tradition of accompanying tapas with a nice Fino or Amontillado Sherry or a glass of red Vermouth.

I had read a lot about Sherry in my wine course WSET3, but I realized I knew very little about Vermouth. Join me to figure out the basics!

What exactly is Vermouth?

Vermouth is a fortified wine that is flavored with various botanicals  (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, and spices). 

It comes in many styles from white extra dry (you know it as an ingredient of the famous Dry Martini 🍸), to red and sweet with pronounced spice flavors.

Quick history & cool facts about Vermouth

  • As we know it today, Vermouth was created in mid 18th century in Turin, Italy.

  • The name "vermouth" is the French pronunciation of the German word Wermut for wormwood that has been a main ingredient of Vermouth throughout its history.

  • Originally used for medicinal purposes, eventually becoming a fashionable aperitif of the times.

  • In later years, other interpretations of the idea emerged in Chambéry (Savoy), Lyon/Marseilles and Spain.

  • In late 19th century bartenders start using Vermouth as a blending ingredient in cocktails.

  • Famous Vermouth cocktails that survive to date: the Martini, the Manhattan, and the Negroni.

  • Vermouth gained popularity in the 1950s with help from the Martini brand, which was being marketed by liquor companies. The best promotion for Martini was made by James Bond; “Martini. Shaken not stirred”.

  • Around 2013,  Vermouth made a comeback in the US and its renewed popularity is growing steadily. Artisanal produces are creating new Vermouth brands and vermouth is now considered a fast-growing category within the wine trade.

How and when to drink Vermouth

Whenever you like, really, but I prefer Vermouth as an aperitif before dinner. The science behind aperitifs is that their bittersweet character stimulates the production of gastric juices and promotes appetite. Aha!

Fill a low glass with ice, add a slice of lemon 🍋 or orange 🍊 and pour your sweet Vermouth and if you like top it off with some soda water. Drink standalone or with a simple platter with freshly cut Manchego and juicy Iberico ham like they do in Spain.

photo: eleftheria karyoti

photo: eleftheria karyoti

The three main Vermouth styles

The Italian Vermouth

When used without any qualification, refers to the  original Turin style which is the red sweet vermouth.  All vermouth has as a basis a  white wine. To make it producers add a a caramel solution. 

Brands to look for: Martini & Rossi (more citrusy tasting), Cinzano (more herbal tasting), and Stock which is the most popular in Italy the past 15 years.

The French Vermouth

 The Marseilles style

The dry Vermouth is a Marseille invention. Brands to look for: Noilly Prat Original Dry, Noilly Prat Extra Dry

The Chambéry style

Chambéry it was the first to invent the Blanc style, the lightly sweet white Vermouth.  Brands to look for: Dolin Rouge, Blanc and Dry & Routin Original Rouge, Blanc and Dry

The Spanish vermouth

The Spanish Vermouth emerged in the late 19th century mostly in Catalonia by producers of Italian origin. Their vermouths, largely comparable to sweet, red Italian vermouth, tend to have a less Alpine and more Mediterranean character.

Blended in cocktails

Some of the world's most famous cocktails are made with Vermouth:

ManhattanMartini and Negroni.