Vermouth is a fortified wine that has been around for centuries. It is made by infusing wine with a blend of botanicals, herbs, and spices, and then fortifying it with a distilled spirit. Vermouth is commonly used as an ingredient in cocktails, but it can also be enjoyed on its own. In this article, we’ll explore the history of vermouth, how it’s made, the different types of vermouth, and more.
What Is Vermouth
Vermouth is a type of fortified wine that is flavored with various botanicals, such as herbs, spices, and roots. It is typically made by infusing a neutral grape spirit with a blend of botanicals, and then adding it to a base wine. The resulting mixture is then aged in barrels for a period of time before being bottled.
Vermouth is available in two main styles: sweet and dry. Sweet vermouth is characterized by its rich, caramel-like flavor, while dry vermouth is lighter and more herbaceous. There are also a number of other styles, including semi-sweet, extra-dry, and white vermouth.
Ingredients Used in Vermouth
The exact recipe for vermouth varies depending on the brand and style, but there are several key ingredients that are commonly used. These include:
- Wine: Vermouth is made from a base wine, which can be either red or white.
- Botanicals: Vermouth is flavored with a blend of botanicals, such as wormwood, chamomile, gentian, and juniper berries.
- Neutral grape spirit: The botanicals are infused in a neutral grape spirit, which is then added to the wine to fortify it.
- Sugar: Sweet vermouth is typically sweetened with caramel or sugar.
The History of Vermouth
Vermouth has a long and storied history that dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. It was originally used as a medicinal tonic and was believed to have various health benefits. Over time, it became popular as an aperitif and was enjoyed before meals to stimulate the appetite.
The modern version of vermouth was developed in the late 18th century in Italy by Antonio Benedetto Carpano. Carpano created a new style of vermouth that was fortified with a distilled spirit and flavored with a blend of botanicals. This style of vermouth became known as “Carpano Vermouth,” and it quickly became popular throughout Italy.
In the 19th century, vermouth became popular in France, where it was used as an ingredient in the famous cocktail, the Martini. During Prohibition in the United States, vermouth was one of the few alcoholic beverages that was still legally available, and it became a popular ingredient in many cocktails.
How Vermouth Is Made Today
The process for making vermouth has changed very little over the centuries. The wine is first infused with a blend of botanicals, and then fortified with a neutral grape spirit. The mixture is then aged in barrels for a period of time to allow the flavors to meld together.
Most vermouths are made using a base of white wine, but some are made using red wine. The botanicals used in the recipe vary depending on the style of vermouth, but they typically include herbs and spices such as wormwood, chamomile, gentian, and juniper berries.
The exact recipe is usually a closely guarded secret, with each brand having its own unique blend of botanicals and herbs. After the botanicals have been infused in the wine, a neutral grape spirit is added to the mixture to fortify it. The spirit used is typically a grape brandy or a neutral grain spirit. The amount of spirit added varies depending on the style of vermouth, with sweet vermouth typically containing more spirit than dry vermouth.
Once the wine and spirit have been blended together, the mixture is aged in barrels for a period of time. This aging process allows the flavors to meld together and gives the vermouth its distinctive taste. The length of time that the vermouth is aged varies depending on the brand and style, with some vermouths being aged for only a few months, while others are aged for several years.
Types of Vermouth
There are several different types of vermouth, each with its own unique flavor profile. The two main types of vermouth are sweet and dry, but there are also several other styles, including semi-sweet, extra-dry, and white vermouth.
Sweet vermouth is characterized by its rich, caramel-like flavor. It is typically made using a base of red wine and is sweetened with caramel or sugar. Sweet vermouth is a popular ingredient in many classic cocktails, including the Manhattan and the Negroni.
Dry vermouth is lighter and more herbaceous than sweet vermouth. It is typically made using a base of white wine and is less sweet than sweet vermouth. Dry vermouth is a popular ingredient in many classic cocktails, including the Martini and the Gibson.
Semi-sweet vermouth is a combination of sweet and dry vermouth. It has a balanced flavor that is neither too sweet nor too dry. Semi-sweet vermouth is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide range of cocktails.
Extra-dry vermouth is the driest style of vermouth. It is made using a base of white wine and is typically not sweetened at all. Extra-dry vermouth is a popular ingredient in many classic cocktails, including the Martini and the Manhattan.
White vermouth is made using a base of white wine and is typically lighter and more delicate than other styles of vermouth. It is typically less sweet than sweet vermouth and less herbaceous than dry vermouth. White vermouth is a popular ingredient in many classic cocktails, including the Martini and the Vesper.
Vermouth is a popular ingredient in many classic cocktails. Here are a few of the most popular vermouth cocktails:
The Martini is perhaps the most famous vermouth cocktail. It is made with gin and dry vermouth, and is typically garnished with a lemon twist or an olive.
The Negroni is a classic Italian cocktail that is made with equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. It is typically garnished with an orange twist.
The Manhattan is a classic cocktail that is made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. It is typically garnished with a cherry and/or an orange twist.
The Americano is a refreshing cocktail that is made with equal parts sweet vermouth and Campari, topped off with soda water. It is typically garnished with an orange slice.
The Gibson is a variation of the Martini that is made with gin and dry vermouth, and is garnished with a pickled onion instead of an olive or lemon twist.
The Vesper is a cocktail that was created for James Bond in Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale. It is made with gin, vodka, and white vermouth, and is typically garnished with a lemon twist.
Vermouth is a versatile and flavorful ingredient that has been used in cocktails for centuries. Whether you prefer sweet or dry, there is a style of vermouth that is sure to suit your taste. From classic cocktails like the Martini and the Negroni, to more modern creations, vermouth is a staple ingredient in many of the world’s most iconic drinks. So the next time you’re making a cocktail, consider reaching for a bottle of vermouth to add a little extra flavor and complexity to your drink.