What To Consider When Choosing The Best Vermouth For Your Cocktail, According To A Mixologist

The art of the cocktail revolves around a deep understanding of the ingredients you're using. There are normally only three or four liquids being combined so, if you're looking to elevate your craft, it's time to focus on the fundamentals. Vermouth plays an important supporting role behind the bar. To help us understand what we should be thinking about when choosing the best vermouth for a cocktail, we reached out to Francesco Lafranconi, master mixologist at the Rosevale Cocktail Room inside the Civilian Hotel in New York City.

Keep in mind that vermouth does go bad over a relatively short period of time. If you're mixing drinks professionally, having different kinds of vermouth that pair with what's on the cocktail menu is a small but important way to show you're a cut above. If you're a home bartender, maybe try one vermouth at a time. Otherwise, you'll be pouring them down the drain in a few months.

"Since wine is at its base, it will play a role in the flavor profile," Lafranconi told us. "Trebbiano, for instance, is lighter than the aromatic Moscato in the case of Italian Vermouth." Pairing specific brands of vermouth based on grape varietals can pull a well-trodden cocktail in new directions. It doesn't need to be as dogmatic as saying "X" cocktail equals "X" grape varietal. Instead, identify the cocktail's features and ask yourself whether having it be more dry or sweet would be interesting. Find a grape with those characteristics and experiment.

Beyond the grape

There's more to vermouth than the grape it's made from. "The key botanicals also lead to specific profiles," Francesco Lafranconi says. "Vanilla in sweet vermouth, the amount of wormwood (delivers a bitter taste), and citrus ingredients (Seville orange peel and yuzu, to name a few) could make a big difference. Some vermouths tend to be bold and opulent versus some to be more elegant and delicate with a sophisticated taste."

Although it's uncommon to drink vermouth on its own, if you're looking to take your mixology up to the next level you may want to consider doing just that. Reading ingredient lists is one thing but you don't fully understand how that translates to taste until it's on your tongue. Once you have a thorough understanding of a vermouth's botanical texture you are in a good place to start identifying classic cocktails that the vermouth could slot into.

"Many classics can be revisited by adding a particular style of vermouth," Lafranconi went on. "The Last Word with extra dry vermouth could be very delicious, a whisky highball and margarita with Ambrato-style, a spritzer with Rosé-style, a tiki one like Dr. Funk or Singapore Sling could go well with M&R Rubino for instance, and Penicillin with Padro Dorado Spanish Vermouth." Don't be afraid to experiment with your favorite cocktails. You may miss the mark every once in a while but nothing beats discovering your new favorite flavor in a drink you conjured yourself.