You wouldn't trust a skinny chef, and I'm drunk as hell

What to drink? Vermouth: Pt. 2

In the Previous Part we touched on the history of vermouth, but how does that apply to now? What is the modern definition of vermouth?

Vermouth is part of a family of aromatized, fortified wines, in the same family as quinquinas and gentianes. The base is nearly always a white wine.

Aromatized means herbs or spices have been added as additional flavouring. Vermouth must have wormwood leaf in it, and as the name suggests, quinquinas (lillet, dubonnet) must have quinine in them, and gentianes (suze) must have gentian in them, those two are to be covered in a future What to Drink. Beyond that, there is no rule as to what other herbs/spices must be added to the vermouth, it is up to the master blenders discretion.

Fortified simply means that extra alcohol has been added to provide extra strength or to carry out other functions such as preventing further fermentation. In vermouth’s case this is usually brandy. An example of a couple of fortified, non-aromatized wines would be sherry/port (for a future What to Drink again)

There are typically 3 types of vermouth made by the various companies, red/sweet/rosso, white/sweet/bianco, white/dry/extra-dry and are all generally between 14 and 17% ABV

The red or rosso vermouths are not actually based on red wine as might be assumed, but have caramel added for colour and sweetness.

In the old cocktail books, dry vermouth tends be called french vermouth, and red/sweet/rosso as italian. This is not really the case these days as both countries cater for both types (for example martini extra dry)

So to sum up, vermouth is a combination of wine + herbs (which may extracted by alcohol or other methods) + alcohol (brandy, pure grain alcohol etc) + sugar. The sugar is typically around 20%. Any given vermouth can typically have around 50 herbs and spices.

Vermouth is a WINE and therefore MUST be kept in the fridge, unless you drink the whole bottle in a few days or so, if you have a vacu-vin system, even better! Check out my fridge

I was using the antica formula at the time 😉

Onto the good stuff! How to best use vermouth in todays times! It is of course delicious neat or with soda, but what is paticularly good is the


25ml Sweet Vermouth (Martini, Dolin, Antica)
25ml Campari
Soda to top

Replace the soda with a shot of gin and you have yourself the delicious negroni. These drinks will all be covered over in the cocktail dissection part of the blog.

Dry Martini

70ml Beefeater/Tanqueray/Plymouth
10ml Dry Vermouth

Stir and strain, olive or twist


50ml Gin (Genever or London Dry)
25ml Sweet Vermouth (Again Antica is delicious)
10ml Maraschino
1 Dash Bitters

Stir and strain, discard orange twist, garnish with cherry

Vermouth is such a great versatile ingredient, you are only really limited by your own creativity and imagination. Try infusing vermouth with spices, I know employees only in New York do a Chai infused sweet vermouth.

Try putting vermouth in a soda siphon or foam canister to change up the texture and add a new dimension and mouth feel or try adding some gelatin and serving “vermouth jelly” with your drinks. These are some ideas we will be covering in the Modern mixology section of the blog soon.

We have also tried making our own vermouth, which came out pretty damn tasty.

Whiskey and vermouth are made for each other, classic manhattan or some of your own twists and plays.


50ml Rye/Bourbon
25ml Sweet Vermouth of choice (I like Antica)
2 Dashes Bitters (Angostura/Bokers)

Stir and strain, discard orange twist, add cherry

Stiff Upper Lip

50ml Bourbon
15ml Lemon
15ml Sugar syrup (1:1)
15ml Antica Formula
1 Dash Angostura

Shake and strain, Lemon twist

Vermouth is also incredible as a cooking ingredient, it goes incredibly well with seafood; here is a recipe from the fantastic book on vermouth I have “Vermouth, by Gerard Noel” which is also where i got a lot of my history from.

Wild Salmon with vermouth

4 Pieces of salmon
1oz Butter
2Tbsp Dry Vermouth
1/4 Pint Double Cream
Zest of Half a Lemon
Salt & Pepper
Dill for garnish

Saute Fish in butter, remove pieces from pan, in same pan add other ingredients except dill, bring to boil and simmer until thickened, serve over fish, garnish with dill and serve with potatoes and beans!

It also makes a great addition to a bloody mary, try adding a little dash to that next time you make one of those.

That’s it for vermouth, hope that was relatively interesting, next week on What to Drink we’re tackling the goliath that is rum! See you then.

Thanks to:
Vermouth by Gerard Noel
Imbibe by David Wondrich
Ultimate Bar Book by Andre Domine
for references.


One response

  1. Cisco

    Good job Liam, I totally enjoy reading the history of vermouth, now I am waiting for Rum part 2.

    7 November, 2011 at 3:20 PM

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