Vermouth is an under-represented spirit. Bartenders know it as the key ingredient behind many classic cocktails, but for the rest of us, vermouth appears to be surrounded by a mystical aura that makes it hard to understand.
The challenging category is hitting the mainstream, though, and its gaining popularity fast. The turn of the century brought us back to appreciating the good stuff, quality spirits with a soul, and vermouth’s soul is an old one.
To better understand vermouth, let’s start by saying that there’s no one vermouth but many. It all starts with wine. White, red, or rosé, wine is the heart of any vermouth.
Of course, vermouth is more than wine. Producers fortify the fermented grape juice with a distilled spirit to increase its alcohol strength and extend vermouth’s shelf life. It also sets the stage for the most crucial element in vermouth — the herbs, roots, barks, and spices that give the spirit its aromatic personality.
Vermouth first appeared in France and was a medicinal tonic to cure all maladies. It’s enticing taste soon gave people the idea of bringing the potent spirit from the medicine cabinet to the bar.
France and Italy have a long vermouth-making history, but Spain and the US now have a respectable craft vermouth industry that consistently releases contemplative vermouths to the market.
Sweet or dry, vermouth is delicious on its own but can add layers of complexity to classic and modern concoctions.
The new kids on the block.
Imbue Cellars, in the Oregon wine country, is raising eyebrows with its ruby-hued Classic Sweet Vermouth. Designed to be enjoyed on the rocks, has a base of aged wine, a touch of brandy and it’s infused with enticing botanicals.
The Spanish Primitivo Quiles Vermouth Rojo, aromatized with herbs such as fennel, sage, and clove, is dark-hued and offers layers of balsamic-infused cherries and winter spices over a pleasantly bitter palate.
Also from Spain, Priorat Natur Vermut is all about citrus peels and almonds and a palate tainted with earthy flavors and textures.
And these are only a few examples of what the exciting world of vermouth offers today.
Start your vermouth collection today.
Every bottle of vermouth is unique, and many of them are limited editions, so build your collection a bottle at a time and soon you’ll have an impressive repertoire to fuel your creativity.
Make yourself an astonishing Martini, Manhattan, Negroni, Americano, or Boulevardier, all classic cocktails that call for vermouth, but also use the aromatic spirit to create new and exciting concoctions. And straight or on the rocks, vermouth is a joy at all hours.
It’s time to pay our respects to the vermouth family; the aromatic spirit is better than ever.