I never gave much thought to Vermouth as an actual drink until I was offered two bottles of it to sample along with some tempting mixed drink recipes (below). Until a few days ago, I assumed vermouth was the nearly clear liquor one literally “waved” over a martini or, barring that, simply spritzed lightly over the top of vodka (thereby turning a simple glass of vodka into a “mixed drink.”). Martini’s vermouths are made in Italy.
Well, the shocking truth about vermouth is that there is a lot more to this liquor than that, and it’s a versatile mixer that’s nice to sip on its own, too!
Vermouth is an actually an aromatized fortified wine flavored with various botanicals (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, spices). The name “vermouth” is the French pronunciation of the German word “Wermut” for wormwood that has been used as an ingredient in the drink over its history. Wormwood has an interesting history of it’s own, as it is an ingredient in Absinthe. This “apertiv” was originally used as “medicine” but by the end of the 1800s, bartenders were adding it to mixed drinks such as the Martini, the Manhattan and the Negroni. You can also use Vermouth in cooking instead of white wine in some recipes.
What I didn’t realize is that vermouth comes in different types of sweet and dry, and in red and white. However, there are many variations depending upon the manufacturer. Each starts with a base of grape wine, but then additional alcohol and the company’s proprietary mixture of dry ingredients (e.g aromatic herbs, roots, and barks) are added and then the wine is sweetened to taste. Most vermouths are bottled at between 16% and 18% ABV, as compared with the 9–14% ABV of most unfortified wines. The two vermouths I tried from Martini are 15% ABV. Both are quite smooth. The red (“rosso”) version is a bit more bitter, and the white version is more citrus-y, but if you sip vermouth at room temperature you can really taste some of the distinctive ingredients in these liquors. Martini Rosso (sometimes defined as “Italian Style”) is rich and has a stronger taste with prominent bitter herbs, while the Martini Bianco (“French Style”) is actually kind of refreshing, especially served over ice. Neither of these vermouths are super-sweet.
Here are three classic recipes you might like to try using vermouth!
MARTINI® Manhattan 1 part MARTINI® Rosso vermouth 2 parts whiskey Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a martini cocktail glass or pour over ice in rocks glass. Add cherry to garnish. For a twist on the traditional Manhattan, replace bourbon with DEWAR’S® WHITE LABEL® Blended Scotch Whisky.
MARTINI® Negroni ¾ part MARTINI® Rosso vermouth 1 part BOMBAY® Original Gin ¾ part CAMPARI® liqueur Stir ingredients with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Add a twist of lemon
MARTINI® Bianco Spritz 2 parts MARTINI ® Asti (chilled) 1 part MARTINI® Bianco vermouth Pour over ice in a rocks glass.
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