Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Vermouth Guide: What To Know About One of the Most Versatile Spirits

On top of having one of the coolest names in the entire drinks realm, vermouth is an essential bar item. The best of the bunch are great sippers on their own and some of the most famous cocktails on the planet depend on the stuff.

Think of vermouth as wine given the gin treatment, a fortified grape spirit hit with all kinds of herbs and botanicals. A bit like amaro in its highly aromatic quality, gin depends heavily on the many herbs, seeds, roots, barks, spices, and more added to it. 

Related Videos

Behind the bar, vermouth could not be more important. It’s a heavy lifter in any number of classic cocktails, from a Vodka Martini to a Negroni. In this country, it’s often overlooked, something found in a Martini & Rossi bottle at the grocery store and little more. But it’s a vibrant drink that’s fun to play off of with spirits, cook with in place of wine, or enjoy as an aperitif.

Saulgranda/Getty Images

Like so many great things, vermouth got its start in Italy. In the mid-17oo’s in Turin, the drink was devised as a medicinal thing and soon shifted to a fashionable sipper. It quickly found a home in a number of mixed drinks but was equally popular chilled and neat, even as a midday drink. Vermouth has since evolved to include two major categories (red and white) and styles (sweet and dry).

Interestingly, the word vermouth is based on how the French say “wermut,” the German name for wormwood. Italy and France continue to be major producers, unsurprising given their related wine cultures, but Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. turn out quite a bit, too. In fact, the last couple of decades have seen an exciting number of solid American vermouths enter the scene.

Related Reading

Vermouth is made atop a relatively low-alcohol neutral white or red wine. It’s given the aromatic treatment with some special combination of herbs and other aromatic ingredients before being fortified and put to tank or barrel. A number of wine grapes are used in its production, from Clairette blanche to Trebbiano. Some parts of the world, like Chambéry in France (home of the famous Dolin vermouth), are so well-known for their distinctive vermouths that they have their own appellations (much wine has its Burgundy, Chianti, Napa Valley, etc.).

Sweet vermouth tends to clock in at about 10-15% sugar, which is quite sweet but great for mixing and offsetting other ingredients in cocktails. For sipping purposes, this writer prefers a dry vermouth. This style tends to have very little residual sugar and drinks more like a sherry. They tend to be fragrant, briny, floral, and fresh.

As you look to be more adventurous in 2021, even from home, give vermouth a shot. There are unique takes from all over the world and it’s tremendously fun to experiment with in the glass. Here are a few worth trying:

González Byass La Copa Rojo

Gonzalez Byass La Copa Vermouth

A sweeter red Vermouth from Spain, La Copa has been made since the late 19th century. Made from Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez, soleras in Jerez, this option offers big baking spice and dried cinnamon notes and dark fruit. It’s fun on its own or mixed up with some sherry or brandy (or some combination of the two).

Ransom Dry Vermouth

Ransom Dry Vermouth

This riff from Oregon is like potpourri, bursting from the glass with floral aromatics. On the palate, it shows wild honey and an even mix of herbs, fruit, and spice. It owes at least part of its well-roundedness with some aging in French oak barrels.

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino

This northern Italian version should be a part of everybody’s at-home bar setup. It comes in a pretty bottle, is made from the Moscato grape, and is great with some whisky or even splashed into some Prosecco. On its own, it shows a pleasant mix of orange peel, leather, and strawberry rhubarb.

Lo-Fi Aperitifs Dry Vermouth

Crisp and plenty dry, this vermouth from Lo-Fi does well with most spirits and is made with rhubarb, cocoa, and gentian root, among other things. Made in California, it holds a nice citrus streak and stays on the palate for a while.

Editors' Recommendations

This is the major change coming to Toblerone chocolate
Stripped of its "Swissness," Toblerone is getting a new look
toblerone chocolates new packaging

Toblerone, the nougaty, triangular chocolate bar we all know and love, will be getting a modern makeover later this year. US owner of the popular candy bar company, Mondelez International, has decided to relocate some of Toblerone's production a few countries over to Slovakia, stripping the chocolate of its "Swissness."
Under Swiss law, established in 2017, a product that's advertised with marks such as the Swiss flag, any references to Swiss cities, or, in the case of Toblerone, the Matterhorn mountain, must meet very strict origin criteria. The Swiss powers that be established this law to protect the prestige and reputation of genuine, high-quality Swiss-made products, including, of course, its chocolate.

While much of Toblerone's production will remain in Switzerland — even amping up by the end of the year — the strict laws dictate that it can't be considered a Swiss product anymore unless manufactured there exclusively.
Because the candy will now be partially produced elsewhere, it will no longer be allowed to advertise with any "Swissness," including the iconic Matterhorn logo. The label will also shift from reading “Swiss chocolate” to “Established in Switzerland in 1908” instead.
Reportedly, the hidden bear in the current mountainscape design will remain, but no word yet as to how prevalent it will be.
In a statement reported by CNBC, Mondelez International says that the Toblerone new logo will have a “modernized and streamlined mountain logo that is consistent with the geometric and triangular aesthetic.”
We think we speak for most when we say we couldn't care less what the box looks like. Just make sure it tastes the same.

Read more
The 7 best CBD-infused drinks we tried in 2023
These tasty CBD-infused drinks will have you feeling calmer in no time
Cans o RisEau cbd drinks.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has been hot for a while now, making its way into everything from CBD teas to a variety of CBD coffee brands. If you're wondering "what is CBD?" — it's a naturally occurring compound present in cannabis plants. According to the World Health Organization, it's not addictive, has a solid safety profile, and won't get you high. In clinical trials, it's been effective in the treatment of epilepsy and shows promise in treating a number of other conditions.

In addition to CBD-infused water, tea, soda, and seltzer, another growing trend is CBD-infused nonalcoholic spirits and cocktails. The adult beverage market is flooded with CBD products promising to help you relax, sleep, destress, and mellow out, all without the hangover you'd get from booze (CBD is considered a controlled substance and can't be legally added to booze, at least not yet). We've rounded up a few of our favorite CBD-infused drinks below, from CBD cocktails to CBD water, so you can work your relaxation into your daily routine no matter where you are.

Read more
Here’s how to make a margarita, according to top bartenders
The only margarita recipes you'll ever need
margarita tequila cocktail lime strainer

The best margaritas do not grow on trees, nor do they show up in a can (although there are some tasty canned drinks these days). No, the tastiest version of the tequila classic is made fresh, with love and care and some wisdom from a couple of top bartenders.

It's a balancing act, for sure, but when it's dialed-in, the margarita is one of the best and most refreshing cocktails ever devised. The classic mix of agave spirit, lime, salt, and a touch of sweetness is great alone or with any number of dishes, especially within Mexican cuisine (the nation where the drink was born).

Read more