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Know Your Vermouth

From herbaceous and bitter to sweet and fruity, read on for the lowdown on your new favourite drink – vermouth

Whether it’s a low abv spritz or a punchy negroni that takes your fancy, vermouth is the current word on everyone’s thirsty lips. It’s been the backbone of many a cocktail for as long as we have been drinking them, but finally it's managed to take the limelight in its own right.

It may be our love of the Italian aperitivo movement, it may be the fact that we are drinking more mindfully and vermouth can deliver all the flavour without the strength, or maybe it’s just because it’s delicious – but whatever it is, now is the time to know your vermouth.

At its core vermouth is a wine. A wine that has been infused with a variety of herbs, roots, spices and botanicals to add a range of flavours (or historically for medicinal properties) and boosted with a little extra spirit, usually something like a clear grape brandy, to fortify it. So, it’s a fortified aromatized wine. Now, the variations of flavour this can give are plentiful – whether it’s through different base wines or aromatizing with broadly different herbs and spices – here’s what you might expect from the different styles…

Red/Rosso/Rouge/Sweet
Despite being categorised as red most of these vermouths are a reddy-brown, rather than a bright red of say, Campari. It’s also not that sweet – not like a sugary sweet – there’s definitely a taste of residual sugar but this is brilliantly balanced by the infusion of barks and spices that brings a bitterness and acidity that makes it all sit together as a delicious aperitif and an important element of a negroni and a manhatten.

Try - Antica Formula Carpano Vermouth, Punt e Mes, Cocchi Vermouth di Torrino

White/Blanc/Bianco
Sweet on the palate but not cloying and with an underlying bitterness (different to that of the above red in that it will be without spice, more citrus, fruit and floral led) that makes it delicious all on its own over ice.

Try – Regal Rogue Lively White, Belsazar White Vermouth

Dry
White in colour but not the same as white vermouth – this style has the least residual sugar and will be the most herbaceous of the bunch. Light to medium in body and sometimes with a salty salinity. A classic ingredient in a martini.

Try – Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry, Noilly Prat