Like so many great things that we now have and use on a daily basis, the libation we call vermouth hails from Italy. A fortified wine, customarily enhanced with blend of botanicals, herbs, and spices rose to prominence in Turin in the late 18th Century. Vermouth has since gone on to play a massive role in vintage drinks ranging from the Manhattan to the Martini and beyond.
There are a few varieties depending on how much residual sugar there is and what grape or fortifying agent was used in the process, but vermouths are generally split into white, red, sweet, and dry categories. Brands like Martini & Rossi make perfectly serviceable vermouths, especially as mixers, but there are far more compelling options out there.
Part of vermouth’s appeal is its ability to cover just about the entire palate. Because it is made with so many ingredients – often concealed and proprietary – the result is a beverage that is at once sweet, bitter, zesty, floral, spicy, tart, and crisp. Keeping pace with all that flavor is half the fun.
The reasons for having a healthy supply of good vermouth on hand are many. For starters, you’re probably not drinking enough Negronis. Vermouth’s wild aromatics and earthy, floral flavors give the classic Italian cocktail the backbone it deserves.
Vermouth breathes life into a Martini and takes whisky to new heights in a Boulevardier. It is great on its own and one of few spirits that drinks well at all hours. It’s as good as a pre-supper sipper as it is with charcuterie during a midday picnic.
While Italy and France have become known for their homegrown vermouths, the U.S. and its status as a producer is still emerging. But that’s not to say there aren’t several worth your time. Here are a few top-rated, American-made vermouths to tipple.
Six American Vermouths to Try
Hammer & Tongs
There are some fantastic vermouths made right here in the states. One of the best is Hammer & Tongs from Oregon. Incredibly expressive and the perfect clash of bitter and sweet, this vermouth is wonderful on its own. The aromatics alone are worth savoring for an extended period of time.
Another good option out of Oregon is from Imbue Cellars. The brand’s flagship bittersweet version is made from local Pinot Gris and fortified with brandy made from the same variety at Clear Creek Distillery. This one is nicely balanced, with citrus rind, orchard fruit, and herbaceous notes.
Lo-Fi Aperitifs from Napa should also be on your radar. Their vermouth sports one of the prettiest labels in all of spirits and shows intriguing elderflower and baking spice flavors. Try it mixed with a dry cider.
Another good California-made candidate is Vya from Quady Winery. Made from Orange Muscat, this vermouth is crisp and complex, with a recipe that changes slightly from year to year depending on what herb profile is desired. Quady has been making vermouth for twenty years now and you can taste the experience.
Also of note is Atsby out of New York. Their Armadillo Cake vermouth is mahogany in color and sweetened with dark caramel as opposed to sugar. It is woodsy, rich, and comforting with a zap of brightness.
Oso de Oro Red Vermouth
Made by T.W. Hollister & Co out of Carpinteria, California, this vermouth has a white wine base that is macerated with 19 different herbs and botanicals (including blood orange and Hummingbird sage). It is finished with European caramel to enhance the body and flavor.
Article originally published March 3, 2019.
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