The world would be a lot less interesting without vermouth. You wouldn’t be able to make a Dry Martini, a Manhattan or countless other classic and modern cocktails.
So what exactly is vermouth, anyway? It’s a fortified wine—wine spiked with distilled alcohol to raise the proof—that’s flavored with herbs and spices, often including wormwood. (The name comes from Wermut, the German word for wormwood). While every brand has its own special recipe, there are two main varieties of vermouth: sweet, which is reddish-brown in color, sweetened with sugar and sometimes called Italian vermouth; and dry, which is straw-colored, typically more bitter and sometimes called French vermouth. Interestingly, nearly all vermouth actually starts as white wine: The color of sweet vermouth comes from the botanicals used, plus caramelized sugar. Both versions, according to legendary mixologist and Liquor.com advisory board member Dale DeGroff, became widely available by the end of the 19th century.
Thanks to the resurgence of cocktails, we’ve seen the selection of vermouth explode in liquor stores and at bars. Most brands are still made in France and Italy, but several American upstarts have gotten into the vermouth game in recent years. Do a taste test to find the ones that you like best. No matter what type or brand you buy, we suggest getting a small bottle and refrigerating it. If your vermouth has been open for more than three months, you should replace it.
HOW TO DRINK VERMOUTH:
While vermouth can be sipped on the rocks as a light aperitif , it also works in a wide range of cocktails.