Vermouth might be more popular than ever in Spain right now. Although traditions like “la hora del vermut”—a quick vermouth and snack to whet one’s appetite before lunch—never faded, a growing return to gastronomic traditions, alongside Spanish vermouth’s typically affordable price point, has popularized the liquor en masse, earning the title of “the new Gin & Tonic” of Spain.
Alongside the historic distilleries that come from the Reus region of Catalonia like Yzaguirre, modern styles from distilleries like Golfo, which focuses on using local plants and grape varieties, are gaining ground.
Today, century-old bodegas and tabernas, alongside modernized hipster-friendly joints, stock their bars with barrels of traditional vermut de grifo, or vermouth on tap, as well as bottles of the apéritif.
Unlike the Italian rosso, Spanish vermouths are typically sipped straight, perhaps with ice or con sifón (“with gas”), and garnished with an orange slice. Whether it’s a midday or late-night drink, this affordable luxury is one that’s hard to miss in Madrid, the city with more bars per capita than any other in Europe.
For those looking to learn the different nuances of varying vermouths, La Violeta Vermut is a great place to start. Although its past lives have included jazz tavern and dive bar, the vermutería format boasts up to 30 different varieties of vermouths from across Spain. Many are classics like Yzaguirre and Miró, which as tradition dictates is available en grifo, or on tap. But the expansive list also features more modern-styles like Madrid’s Zarro, the first to be certified organic by the European Union, and the biodynamic Luna. Calle Vallehermoso 62
Right in the heart of the hipster-friendly Malasaña district, the legendary vermutería has maintained its no-fuss veneer since opening in 1928: standing-room only, aside from a single tiny bench. The seemingly decorative barrels of vermouth prove their use as the source of the aperitivo, which customers can order plain as well as con sifón. Beyond a seemingly endless supply of vermouth, Casa Camacho also boasts a mean Malasaña specialty: the Yayo. In addition to vermouth, the mixed drink features a heavy pour of gin and a bit of casera (soda), accompanied by a small tapa like olives, which shouldn’t set you back more than two euros. Calle San Andres de Rabanedo 4
Located on famed Cava Baja Street in the city’s La Latina neighborhood, Taberna La Concha opened its door in 1996 to become a favorite among locals. In addition to the house specialty cocktail, La Manuela, which features vermouth and Angostura bitters along with a gin spray, La Concha’s tostas de gambas, or shrimp toasts, are highly recommended, particularly with vermouth. (La Concha also offers gluten-free versions of its entire menu for celiacs.) Calle Cava Baja 7
Celso y Manolo’s long, marble bar, which dates back to the 1950s, is just one of the ways the modernized taberna maintains a connection to its old-school past. Its tapas and raciones reveal a dominant philosophy of focusing on regional and organic cuisine, translated through classic taberna options like fried calamari bocadillos or sardines, alongside more modern indulgences like grilled tuna served with avocado and foie gras. But the small-batch house-made vermouth, which is macerated in a barrel with 50 different types of herbs for six months in Tarragona, is one of the tavern’s main attractions and served in Martini glasses with cherries and slices of orange and lemon as garnishes. Calle Libertad 1
Mixing your cocktail