Vermouth may just be one of the most underrated spirits. Although a key component in many classic cocktails, this savory sipper (which is technically a fortified wine aromatized with botanicals) can equally go the limits on its own. Not sure where to begin? We’ve got a few suggestions. From big brands to small-batch producers and everything in between, here are the best vermouths for every sipping circumstance.
Dolin Vermouth De Chambery Dry
ABV: 17.5% | Region: Savoy, France | Tasting Notes: Lemon, sea salt, pine
You can’t go wrong with Dolin. This French vermouth was first produced during the 1820s with a minimum of 30 macerated botanicals. Its popularity skyrocketed during the heyday of Parisian café culture in the late 19th and early 20th century, and today, the brand holds a strong presence across bars worldwide. The recipe has long been kept a secret, though rest assured, this stuff is great (and for the price, the vermouth seriously overdelivers).
In the realm of accessible Vermouth, Dolin tends to be a unanimous pick amongst the pros. “For a classic French go-to for everyday cocktail needs, you can never go wrong with the brand Dolin,” says Klug. “It is a fantastic everyday price point and an absolute workhorse that never disappoints in any application.” Lowry also finds Dolin to be the easiest all-purpose Vermouth. “It has the classic taste one looks for in dry and sweet styles,” she says.
Dubonnet Rouge Aperitif
ABV: 19% | Region: Kentucky, USA | Tasting Notes: Black currants, plums, nutmeg
This famed French sipper was created by Joseph Dubonnet, who used a four-part recipe to aromatize his base wine. Although production in France still exists today, the vermouth is now also made at Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, Ky. The red wine base is macerated with a proprietary blend of herbs and spices (which include but are not limited to black currants, tea and more), as well as cinchona tree bark and 100% cane sugar. Serve over ice after dinner for a delicious dessert replacement.
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Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth
ABV: 18% | Region: Marseillan, France | Tasting Notes: Chamomile, orange rind, pine
From France, the Extra Dry version of Noilly Prat’s original vermouth is produced from 14 different herbs and spices, including chamomile, Moroccan coriander, Tunisian oranges and Italian orris root. We love the cultural blend of ingredients in this delicious, handcrafted vermouth. Use it in cocktail creations or sip over ice.
Best for Manhattan
Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth
ABV: 16.5% | Region: Turin, Italy | Tasting Notes: Prunes, raisins, clove, fig, sweet spice
This eponymous vermouth was created in 1786 by Antonio Benedetto Carpano and has since become a standard-bearer for sweet vermouths worldwide. Flavors of baking spices, vanilla, and wild herbs dominate its textured and layered palate. Rich yet balanced, this vermouth perfectly complements the savory flavors of whiskey and bitters. Simply stir over ice, strain into a chilled glass, garnish with a cherry and serve straight up.
"For a Manhattan, I always go with Antica Formula,” says Aleks Jaworska of The Table in Edinburgh. "I think it has [great] character, and it’s a beautiful vermouth with a lot of body, spice and vanilla to go along with aged spirits (bourbon or rye for a Manhattan)."
For classic negronis, Jeremy Le Blanche of New York’s Thyme Bar reaches for Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth. “Vermouth is another way to add sweetness to any drink, with nice complexity,”he says. Dianne Lowry, beverage director of Macchina in Williamsburg, New York, explains that Vermouth is “often misunderstood and overlooked by most Americans, yet it can add tons of nuances and depth of flavor to cocktails.”
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Best for Martini
Lo-Fi Aperitifs Dry
ABV: 16.5% | Region: California, USA | Tasting Notes: Citrus, elderflower, faint anise
Made in California’s Napa Valley, Lo-Fi Aperitifs Dry Vermouth is produced from locally-grown grapes and is loaded with flavors of citrus rind, elderflower, coriander and more. The vermouth’s brisk acidity and juicy palate come alive when mixed with your favorite vodka or gin (perfect for a Martini)—dealer’s choice here.
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Best for Negroni
Cinzano Rosso Sweet Vermouth
ABV: 15% | Region: Turin, Italy | Tasting Notes: Black cherry, citrus peel, quinine, cinnamon
This affordable vermouth is perfect for adding a touch of sweetness to Negronis. The red wine base is loaded with herbs and spices, which, although sweet on the mid-palate, lead to a slightly bitter and herbal-driven finish.
"A 'rosso/red/sweet' vermouth is the best to use when making a Negroni, as the sweetness complements the botanicals of the gin, balances the bitterness of the Campari, and pairs well with the orange wedge garnish," says Suyash Pande, head bartender at New York’s Baar Baar. "I recommend the Cinzano Rosso. At Baar Baar, we make an incredible Chai Negroni where we infuse Earl Grey tea (0.4 ounces) and whole spices for an hour and a half to the vermouth for a tannic, masala chai finish as a variation."
Cocchi Americano Bianco
ABV: 16.5% | Region: Asti, Italy | Tasting Notes: Honey, citrus, gentian, sweet spice
Produced in the heart of Asti, Italy, Cocchi Americano has been made since 1891 and is still a popular bottle of choice today. Although the exact recipe remains a secret, this white wine base is aromatized with gentian, bitter orange peels and cinchona. Sip chilled or mix into cocktail creations at home.
Lustau Vermut Rojo
ABV: 15% | Region: Jerez, Spain | Tasting Notes: Toffee, raisins, dried apricots, anise, citrus rind
From Spain, Lustau Vermut Rojo is a must for lovers of Spanish wines and aromatized beverages. Unlike the still and dry base wines of most vermouths, this sipper uses rich and nutty sherry (an 80% Amontillado and 20% Pedro Ximénez blend) as its base. Notes of toffee, raisins, dried apricots, anise, and citrus rind dominate the vermouth's complex and silky palate. Enjoy over ice with an orange peel or mix together with brown spirit-based cocktails.
Best to Drink Neat
Contratto Vermouth Bianco
ABV: 17.5% | Region: Piedmont, Italy | Tasting Notes: Cinnamon, cloves, bitter dark chocolate
Whether you prefer dry or sweet, Contratto has great options for delicious vermouths to sip neat. This Bianco version is bone dry and loaded with citrus-driven flavors that pair well with a lemon twist. The Rosso, on the other hand, is strong, sweet, and loaded with woodsy flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and bitter dark chocolate.
Victoria James, beverage director of Cote in New York, feels a deep-rooted connection to Contratto because of her family’s history. “The Contratto Bianco brings me back to walking through fields of wildflowers and the local wild scrubland of asters and alpine herbs in my family's homeland of Piemonte,” she says. “I like to pull the vermouth straight from the fridge and serve it neat so that it isn't watered down and the full aromatics are preserved.”
Best for Gifting
Del Professore Rosso
ABV: 18% | Region: Turin, Italy | Tasting Notes: Baking spice, vanilla, cinnamon
This unique Italian vermouth makes a great gift for the booze connoisseur in your life. Del Professore is produced from 100% Italian wines (white and red) and is aged for six months in small oak barrels. Herbal-driven notes of tree bark, rhubarb, menthol, and citrus mesh with oak-influenced flavors of baking spice, vanilla and cinnamon. Although this vermouth is fine to use in cocktails, we recommend sipping over ice first to truly appreciate the beverage.
According to Le Blanche, great vermouth should have “a good body, unique flavor profile, and deep complexity that lingers in your mouth after tasting.” For an off-the-beaten-path pick, Le Blanche reaches for Del Professore vermouth. “We utilized Del Professore Vermouth in the Solanum Negroni to compliment our umami-infused Campari blend, to create an intense savory profile,” he says.
ABV: 16.5% | Region: New York, USA | Tasting Notes: Butternut Squash, Apple Mint, Beet Eucalyptus, and Rhubarb (expressions available for purchase)
For a go-to contemporary style Vermouth, Lowry recommends Uncouth Vermouth. “It’s new and interesting, as well as woman-owned, has no added sugars, and is local to our restaurant, Macchina, in Brooklyn, which is always a plus,” she says. Allie Klug, manager at Bohemien Bar in Brooklyn, also calls Uncouth Vermouth a go-to favorite. “[It’s] always so thrilling, as they base their ingredients off of seasonal ingredients grown locally. [It was one] of the first vermouths I ever drank on the rocks,” she says. Uncouth Vermouth comes in a variety of flavors and expressions, including Butternut Squash, Apple Mint, Beet Eucalyptus, and Rhubarb.
La Quintinye Vermouth Royal Blanc
ABV: 17% | Region: Athens, Greece | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, rose petals, blood orange, oregano
For a unique craft Vermouth that promises to satisfy the masses, look no further than Otto’s Vermouth. The beverage gets its name from Otto, the King responsible for moving Greece’s capital to Athens, as he’s believed to be responsible for the creation of the country’s Vermouth (made for him by a local merchant). This tasty Greek expression shows notes of vanilla, rose petals, blood orange, and oregano.
“Otto's Vermouth is great for spring and summer, [as it is characterized by] bright notes and a slightly bitter taste,” says Lowry, stating that she personally loves to pair the vermouth with cucumber and other fresh herbaceous flavor profiles.
In short, Lowry states that balance is the most important component when looking for a good vermouth. “Vermouth must have the perfect combination of botanicals for flavoring and then sweetness to marry it all together,” she says. Additionally, Lowry cites mouthfeel and color as to equally important traits.
What to Look For
DeMark notes that balance between acidity and sweetness, a nice round mouthfeel that isn’t too sticky-sweet, and complexity / herbaceousness are key when searching for high-quality bottles. “I also seek out formulas that I think will achieve versatility in cocktails, and that have the ability to be drunk on their own (because I love a good vermouth on the rocks!)”
What is vermouth?
Vermouth is an aromatized, fortified wine that is flavored with botanicals, herbs, and spices.
What is the alcohol content of Vermouth?
Most Vermouths clock in between 15 and 18% ABV, making them higher in alcohol than most dry and still wines, though lower in alcohol than the majority of fortified wines.
How do you store vermouth?
Once open, Vermouths should be stored like any other wine—that is, in a dark and cool area. Refrigeration is preferred. Vermouths will generally show their best within the first month of being opened. They should be discarded after three months.
How do you mix vermouth into cocktails?
Vermouth can be used in a variety of cocktail creations or simply sipped solo. For a refreshing and low-ABV cocktail, DeMark recommends a simple Vermouth & Tonic. “[This cocktail] is great with blanc vermouths, rosso vermouths, chinato, and bitter vermouths—pretty much any tasty vermouth is made even more delightful with a big splash of high-quality tonic and a lemon or orange peel,” she says. For a more complex option, she recommends a Bamboo, which combines fino sherry and dry vermouth with orange bitters and a touch of sugar.
Klug feels that there is nothing more satisfying on a hot summer day than a Bianco Vermouth and soda with a lemon wedge. “However, the ways you can implement vermouth in your drinking routine are endless and exciting,” she says. Although there is plenty of versatility within the Vermouth sector, Klug states that she always looks for structural balance.
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Vicki Denig is a wine, spirits, and travel journalist who splits her time between New York and Paris. Her work regularly appears in major industry publications. She is the content creator and social media manager for a list of prestigious clients, including Sopexa, Paris Wine Company, Becky Wasserman, Volcanic Selections, Le Du’s Wines, Windmill Wine & Spirits and Corkbuzz. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine.