As seems to be the lasting (but welcome) trend in craft cocktails, what was old is new again. Ladies and gentlemen, let me reintroduce you to vermouth. Drinkers and bartenders alike are falling back in love with this supporting spirit.
Vermouth is actually fortified wine; all bottles are at least 75 percent wine. A majority of vermouths are made from white wine – red (or sweet) vermouth, known as Italian vermouth, gets color from infused botanicals or the addition of caramel. The wine used is first infused, or aromatized, with various secret blends of herbs and spices. It’s then thinned out with the addition of a distilled spirit to raise the ABV to a shelf-stable percentage, usually 15 to 16 percent. From there, vermouths are left to rest to allow all the flavors to integrate completely and then stabilized through refrigeration. Because vermouth is primarily wine, it acts like wine when it is opened: It will oxidize, lose aroma and flavor, and start to take on the properties of vinegar. This deterioration can be stalled for a month or two by simply putting the opened bottle in the refrigerator. After 1 to 2 months, toss it, and get a new one.
For a red vermouth, I prefer Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. It has a nice balance of spices and isn’t overly cloying or overly viscous. Other brands that I typically lean toward are Dolin Rouge Vermouth de Chambéry and Quady Vya Sweet; for special occasions I’ll pull out the Carpano Antica Formula.
For a dry vermouth (known as French vermouth), my go-to is Dolin Dry Vermouth de Chambéry. For bianco or blanc vermouths, there are only three on the market that I have tasted, and I find all work well in cocktails: Dolin Blanc Vermouth de Chambéry, Martini & Rossi Bianco and Cinzano Bianco. I prefer the Cinzano for sipping.
As far as using vermouth, it’s common to drink it over ice or straight. Manhattans and Martinis are the two most iconic vermouth cocktails, but if you look through those old bar books, there are quite a few other great cocktails using it. I’ve included one such example here: the Tropical Cocktail, circa 1927.
Serves | 1 |
- 1¼ oz dry vermouth
- ¾ oz maraschino liqueur
- ¾ oz Marie Brizard Crème de Cacao White
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- orange peel (for garnish)
| Preparation | In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine all ingredients except garnish. Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel.