The Basics History & Trends

Behind the Bar: Versatile Vermouth

French and Italian vermouth became widely available at the end of the 19th century and, of course, are the key ingredients in two of the most classic and enduring cocktails: the Manhattan and the Martini. But the fortified wine can be used in more than just these famous recipes and is now getting the attention of bartenders looking to add a robust accent to their drinks.

What has helped is the introduction of a number of fine European products. The Carpano family began producing sweet vermouth in Turin, Italy, hundreds of years ago. The brand’s Antica Formula is now available in America. It is the spiciest of the sweet vermouths and mixologists are now pairing it and Carpano’s other sweet vermouth, Punt e Mes, with rye whiskies to make delicious Manhattans and other creations.

Since James Bond’s first blockbuster, the Martini has become increasingly a vodka drink with little, if any, vermouth. Happily gin is making a comeback, and the turn-of-the-century Marguerite Martini—equal parts vermouth and gin accented with a dash of orange bitters—is now appearing on menus. Known as the Dry Martini and as the Fitty-Fitty at New York’s Pegu Club, it tastes better than ever since bartenders are using Dolin’s excellent dry vermouth. It comes from the legendary French town of Chambéry, which is known as the home of the finest vermouth in the world.

Vermouth might have a strong flavor, but when it comes to shelf life it’s delicate. Once open, always store it in a refrigerator. To ensure that it’s fresh, buy smaller bottles, like the 500 ml size. But once you try these riffs on the Manhattan from two top New York City bartenders, you won’t have to worry about left-over vermouth again.


Contributed by Michael McIlroy


  • 2 oz Rye whiskey
  • .5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • .5 oz Sweet vermouth
  • Dash Angostura Bitters
  • Dash orange bitters
  • Garnish: Lemon zest twist
  • Glass: Cocktail


Stir all the ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon zest.

Red Hook

Contributed by Vincenzo Errico


  • 2 oz Rye whiskey
  • .5 oz Punt e Mes
  • .5 oz Maraschino liqueur
  • Garnish: Maraschino cherry
  • Glass: Cocktail


Stir all the ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Master Mixologist Dale DeGroff is the author of The Essential Cocktail and The Craft of the Cocktail. He is also a advisor.