How To Drink Vermouth And Simple Upgrades That Let It Shine

Vermouth is far more than just the side character in a Negroni or winter Boulevardier cocktail recipe. Over ice with some fresh herbs, it makes for a delicious drink on its own with a complex and dimensional profile. If you're looking to switch things up at the bar, look no further than vermouth.

Vermouth is technically a type of fortified wine like sherry or port. In fortification, the grape-based wine is spiked with grape-based brandy, which increases the alcohol content (15 to 22%) and adds richness. Then, the fusion is macerated with a variety of botanicals and spices that differ from brand to brand. As in any type of mixology, knowing your ingredients is crucial to creating a balanced drink, and whether you use dry (white) or sweet (red) vermouth will make a huge difference. Long story short, the two are not interchangeable.

Dry vermouth (5% sugar) presents a crisp, floral, slightly tart profile. It's a crucial ingredient in strong, mature cocktails like the Dry Martini, Django Reinhardt, and El Presidente. Conversely, sweet vermouth (15% sugar) is a medium-bodied, herbal, slightly spiced sipper comparable to a less-rich amaro.

If you're into the craft of mixology, then the world of vermouth is your terrain. It's easy to make vermouth the star of its own tasty beverage by playing to its characteristics and layers of flavor. We've rounded up a few pairing ideas to help fortify your brainstorm (pun intended).

Va va vermouth

In general, the sweet vermouth varieties are likely to be more approachable for newer sippers. Like it straight up? Sweet vermouth would be delicious served on the rocks with an orange twist (be sure to express the natural orange oils by rubbing the peel around the rim of the glass). Or, for a more decadent digestif, pop a few whole cherries and almonds into a glass of red vermouth and serve it with some high-quality dark chocolate. Is dry more your style? Enjoy a long pour of dry vermouth over ice with a lemon twist.

You could also add a neutral mixer for a little pleasant dilution. Sweet red vermouth would pair well with soda water and a sprig of fresh rosemary. Dry vermouth would be complemented by sparkling water, an orange slice, and a few fresh mint leaves. For a more elaborate beverage, you could add a scant splash of lemon-lime soda to dry vermouth on the rocks, plus a grapefruit twist and a scrape of fresh vanilla bean.

To emphasize the existing spicier notes in sweet vermouth, try complementary spices as garnishes. A cinnamon stick, whole clove, gentian, gooseberries, licorice root, or wormwood would all make visually arresting finishers. Or, for stronger flavor infusion, you could shake your vermouth with ice and these flavorful spices in a cocktail shaker and strain into a rocks glass to enjoy. Stored in the fridge, an opened bottle of vermouth can retain its quality for four to six weeks.