You may know it as the fortified wine that goes in a Martini and a Negroni but there’s more to vermouth than being a supporting act.
The cocktail modifier is experiencing a renaissance and with the growing trend of low alcohol cocktails, vermouth is starting to take centre stage in bars and cocktail lists.
In this essential guide to vermouth, we explain what is vermouth, how it is made, what defines the various styles of vermouth and how to drink it.
What is Vermouth
Vermouth is a mixture of wine fortified with a spirit and infused with herbs, spices, bark, citrus and roots. Vermouth takes its name from wermut, the German word for wormwood which is the key ingredient, the same wormwood found in absinthe.
Origins of Vermouth
Like many cocktail and mixed drink ingredients, vermouth had its origins as a tonic for medicinal purposes. The first commercially produced vermouth is Carpano Antica Formula, a sweet red style of vermouth which dates back to 1786.
Types of Vermouth
Traditionally, there have been two main types of vermouth, sweet and dry but with the rise of new age vermouths, additional styles include extra-dry white, sweet white, amber rosé and red. Red vermouth traditionally has white wine as a base and gets its colour from the addition of caramelised sugar.
Vermouth EU Regulations
In order to be classed as vermouth by the EU, it must be made of at least 75% wine, be fortified with a spirit, have a minimum ABV of 14.5% and up to 22%, and must contain artemisia absinthium as the bittering element.
Styles of Vermouth
Vermouth styles are categorised by their sugar levels:
- Extra dry: less than 30 grams of sugar per litre; minimum 15% ABV
- Dry: less than 50 grams of sugar per litre; minimum 16% ABV
- Semi-dry: in between 50 and 90 grams of sugar per litre
- Semi-sweet: between 90 and 130 grams of sugar per litre
- Sweet: more than 130 grams of sugar per litre
How to Store Vermouth
Although vermouth has a higher alcohol than wine, it still oxidises therefore storing vermouth in the fridge will preserve it longer. As a rule, once opened, it should be stored it in the fridge where it keeps at best between 4 to 6 weeks.
How to Drink Vermouth
Vermouth can be sipped neat or on ice as an aperitif as well as used in a range of cocktails including classics such as the Martini, Gibson, Blood and Sand, Martinez, Negroni, Manhattan, Rob Roy and Brooklyn.
If you want to try your hand at making vermouth, don’t miss our comprehensive DIY article on How to Make Vermouth, a step by step guide.
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