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4 incredible vermouth cocktails you’re missing out on

Vermouth cocktails to try at home

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We often talk about the main spirit being the most important aspect of a cocktail. This means that while bourbon, dark rum, tequila, or gin gets all the press, the other ingredients get the Rodney Dangerfield treatment. And while bitters are referred to as the “salt and pepper” of the cocktail world, we believe that (depending on the cocktail) vermouth might be just as important.

What’s a Martini without vermouth? Well, it’s pretty much just a boozy glass of gin (or vodka if you’re into that sort of thing). It’s not a Boulevardier without the vermouth; you might as well just make an Old Fashioned instead if your Manhattan is sans vermouth.

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What is vermouth?

We’ve all seen vermouth listed as an ingredient in our favorite cocktails. We might even have a bottle at home. We also might not even know what it is. Well, for those unaware, vermouth is not a spirit. This important ingredient in many classic and contemporary cocktails is a fortified wine. It’s not just boozy grape juice, though. It’s infused with various herbs, botanicals, roots, and other ingredients to give it its timeless flavor. Sometimes, it’s sweetened as well.

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The different vermouths

Not all vermouth is the same. There are a handful of different types of vermouth, each with a specific flavor profile suited for certain drinks. Dry vermouth, while allowed to have as much as 50 grams of sugar per liter, is usually produced with very little sugar, if any. It has more of an herbal quality than other vermouths.

Popular among bartenders, Blanc vermouth is known for its semi-sweet, almost vanilla or honey-like flavor. If Blanc vermouth is in the middle of the spectrum, Sweet vermouth is on a completely different side. Known for its red color, it’s sweet, sugary, and fruity; It’s the vermouth you’ll find in a Manhattan or Negroni.

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Vermouth in cocktails

When it comes to cocktailing, having a bottle or two of vermouth on hand is a necessity. Simply put, you can’t make a handful of classic cocktails without it. It pairs perfectly with a variety of ingredients to create an explosion of flavor. The Negroni, with its bittersweet Campari, needs the sugary sweetness of sweet red vermouth to balance everything out. The same goes for countless other drinks.

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4 incredible vermouth cocktails

Now that you have learned a little bit about what vermouth is and why it’s one of the most important tools a bartender can wield, it’s time to actually drink some cocktails featuring this memorable fortified wine. Keep scrolling to find 4 incredible vermouth-centric cocktails that you should immediately add to your repertoire.

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Hanky Panky

The Hanky Panky might not have the name recognition of some classic cocktails, but it’s been around for over 100 years. The drink, an Italian bitter liqueur take on the Martinez, consists of gin, Fernet-Branca, and sweet vermouth. There’s no mystery about this drink’s genesis. It was created by Ada “Coley” Coleman, the head bartender at the Savoy Hotel in London in 1903. This drink is semi-sweet and highly flavorful thanks to the aforementioned sweet vermouth, gin and Fernet.

Mezcal Negroni
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This isn’t your favorite cup of black coffee. No, this cocktail is as simple as it gets. It’s literally just Campari, vermouth, and soda water (a slice of lemon adds flavor as well). That’s it. It’s like you were going to make a Negroni and then realized you didn’t have any gin on hand and made it anyway. The popular Italian cocktail was invented sometime in the 1860s at Milan’s Caffè Campari by bartender and owner Gaspare Campari. It’s simple, elegant, and highly flavorful.

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A relative of the Americano, the Negroni is simply an Americano with the addition of gin—sweet vermouth and Campari round out the semi-sweet, highly memorable flavor profile. As legend goes, this drink originated in 1919 when a man named Count Camillo Negroni (yes, really) ordered an Americano at Florance, Italy’s Caffè Casoni, and asked for gin to be added to the recipe instead of soda water.

Old Pal
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Old Pal

While it’s clear that gin plays nice with vermouth, many timeless cocktails let you in on that fact. You might be surprised to learn that so does rye whiskey. A great example is the Old Pal, which is made with equal parts rye whiskey vermouth and Campari; this drink is very similar to the classic Boulevardier. Harry MacElhone created it at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in the 1930s.

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Picking the right vermouth for you

Don’t just buy the first bottle of vermouth you see. Understand whether you need dry, sweet, or blanc vermouth for your recipe, and then buy a bottle accordingly. Don’t go cheap on it, either. Vermouth is an important flavor component of many cocktails. You wouldn’t want to ruin your drink with cheap vermouth.

Editors' Recommendations

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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