A bottle of vermouth

Vermouth (/vərˈmθ/ ver-MOOTH; also UK /ˈvɜːrməθ/;[1][2]) is an aromatized, fortified wine flavored with various botanicals (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, spices).

The modern versions of the beverage were first produced in the mid- to late 18th century in Turin, Italy.[3] While vermouth was traditionally used for medicinal purposes, its true claim to fame is as an aperitif, with fashionable cafes in Turin serving it to guests around the clock.[3] However, in the late 19th century it became popular with bartenders as a key ingredient in many classic cocktails that have survived to date,[4][5] such as the Martini, the Manhattan, the Rob Roy, and the Negroni. In addition to being consumed as an aperitif or cocktail ingredient, vermouth is sometimes used as an alternative white wine in cooking.

Historically, there have been two main types of vermouth, sweet and dry.[6] Responding to demand and competition, vermouth manufacturers have created additional styles, including extra-dry white, sweet white (bianco), red, amber (ambre or rosso), and rosé.[5] Vermouth is produced by starting with a base of a neutral grape wine or unfermented wine must. Each manufacturer adds additional alcohol and a proprietary mixture of dry ingredients, consisting of aromatic herbs, roots, and barks, to the base wine, base wine plus spirit or spirit only - which may be redistilled before adding to the wine or unfermented wine must. After the wine is aromatized and fortified, the vermouth is sweetened with either cane sugar or caramelized sugar, depending on the style.[7] Italian and French companies produce most of the vermouth consumed throughout the world, although the United States and the United Kingdom are also producers.

Etymology and history

Consumption of wines fortified with herbs and/or roots is believed to have begun in China at least as early as the Shang and Western Zhou dynasties in (1250–1000 BC).[8] The extra ingredients were added to wine to make it a medicinal drink. Wormwood wine also played a key role in India around 1500BC.[9] Recipes for infusing white wine date back to ancient Greece from around 400 BC. A popular ingredient was wormwood, based on the belief that it was effective at treating stomach disorders and intestinal parasites. D'Alessio's version of the libation contained other botanical ingredients in addition to wormwood. Competing brands developed shortly thereafter in eastern and southeastern France contained their own, proprietary mix of ingredients, including herbs, roots, and spices.[5][10][11]

The name "vermouth" is the French pronunciation of the German word Wermut for wormwood that has been used as an ingredient in the drink over its history. Fortified wines containing wormwood as a principal ingredient existed in Germany around the 16th century. At about this time an Italian merchant named D'Alessio began producing a similar product in Piedmont as a "wormwood wine". By the mid-17th century, the drink was being consumed in England under the name "vermouth" which has been the common name for the beverage until the present day.[10][11]

Over time, two distinct versions of vermouth became established, one pale, dry, and bitter, and the other red and sweeter. Merchant Antonio Benedetto Carpano introduced the first sweet vermouth in 1786 in Turin, Italy. The drink reportedly quickly became popular with the royal court of Turin.[5][11][12][13] Around 1800 to 1813, the first pale, dry vermouth was produced in France by Joseph Noilly.[5][11][12] However, not all pale vermouths produced over time have been dry, and not all red vermouths have been sweet.[5]

The use of vermouth as a medicinal liquor waned by the end of the 18th century, but its use as an aperitif increased in Italy and France.[3] The advent of the cocktail, in the late 19th century, found a new use for vermouth.[4][5] Bartenders found that it was an ideal mixer for many cocktails, including the Martini (beginning in the 1860s) and the Manhattan (beginning around 1874). In addition, the popular Vermouth cocktail, first appearing in 1869, consisted of chilled vermouth and a twist of lemon peel with the occasional addition of small amounts of bitters or maraschino. The popularity of vermouth-heavy cocktails in America, often using twice as much vermouth as gin or whiskey, continued through the 1880s and 1890s. Although the amount of vermouth used in cocktail recipes had somewhat declined, it has recently been experiencing a rise as a favorite among a new breed of bartenders,[14] as a key ingredient in many cocktails.[5][15][16] Vermouth gained popularity in the 1950s with help from the Martini, which was being marketed by the liquor companies. Product placement, and celebrity endorsements from personalities such as Ernest Hemingway, and Humphrey Bogart helped to increase the Martini’s profile. However, the most successful advertiser of the Martini was the fictional character James Bond.[17]

The popularity of vermouth in the United States and Great Britain declined after the mid-20th century, but was still used in those countries in many classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, albeit in smaller amounts. The drink is more popular in other parts of Europe, such as Italy and France, where it is often consumed by itself as an apéritif.[5]

In the years since 2013, there has been renewed interest in vermouth in the U. S. Artisanal makers have created new brands of vermouth which do not seek to imitate European styles, and vermouth has been a fast-growing category within the wine trade.[18]

Production, ingredients, and flavors

Several wine grapes, including Clairette blanche, Piquepoul, Bianchetta Trevigiana,[19] Catarratto and Trebbiano, are generally used as the base ingredients for vermouths. From these grapes, a low-alcohol white wine is produced by vermouth manufacturers. The wine may be aged for a short while before the addition of other ingredients. For sweet vermouths, sugar syrup is added before the wine is fortified with extra alcohol. The added alcohol is usually a neutral grape spirit, but may also come from vegetable sources such as sugar beets. The wine is then placed in large barrels or tanks to which the dry ingredients have already been added. The mixture is stirred at intervals until the dry ingredients have been absorbed and the drink is ready for bottling. Caramel color is added to make red vermouths. Most vermouths are bottled at between 16% and 18% ABV, as compared with the 9–14% ABV of most unfortified wines.[5][20][21]

Spice ingredients often used in vermouths include cloves, cinnamon, quinine, citrus peel, cardamom, marjoram, chamomile, coriander, juniper, hyssop, and ginger. The prohibition of wormwood as a drink ingredient in the early 20th century in some countries sharply reduced its use in vermouth, but small amounts of the herb are still sometimes included. Vermouth brand recipes vary, with most manufacturers marketing their own unique flavor and version of the beverage.[5][12] Vermouth manufacturers keep their recipes for the drink secret.[13]

Sweet vermouths usually contain 10–15% sugar. The sugar content in dry vermouths generally does not exceed 4%. Dry vermouths usually are lighter in body than sweet vermouths.[13]

In addition to pale and red vermouths, there exist golden and rosé versions, but these are not as internationally popular. The region of Chambéry in France has received an appellation d'origine contrôlée for its vermouths, which include a strawberry -flavored version called Chambéryzette.[22][23] Lillet, St. Raphael and Dubonnet are fortified wines similar to vermouth, but are usually considered separate products.[22][24] The two predominant styles of vermouth—the red, Italian rosso and the dry, white vermouth from France—were created and commercialized more than two centuries ago.[25]

The term "Italian vermouth" is often used to refer to red-colored, mildly bitter, and slightly sweet vermouths. These types of vermouths have also been called "rosso."[5] The label "French vermouth" generally refers to pale, dry vermouths that are bitterer than sweet vermouths. The extra bitterness is often obtained by using nutmeg and/or bitter orange peel in the drink recipe.[5] Bianco is a name given to a type of pale, sweeter vermouth.[5]

According to Stuart Walton and Brian Glover, vermouth "is as far removed from the natural produce of the vine as it is possible for a fortified wine to get."[10]

Modern use


Vermouth is a common cocktail ingredient, particularly in Martinis and Manhattans. When drinking vermouth by itself, it is normally an apéritif.[3] Vermouth is used as an ingredient in many different cocktails, as people found it ideal for lowering the alcohol content of cocktails with strong spirits as their base, for providing a pleasant herbal flavor and aroma, and for accentuating the flavors in the base liquor. As previously stated, vermouth is an ingredient in the martini, one of the most popular and well-known cocktails. At first, martinis used sweet vermouth.[4] Around 1904, however, drier French vermouths began to be used in the cocktail. The term "dry martini" originally meant using a drier vermouth as a mixer, not using less vermouth, as the term is used today.[21][26][27]

Sharon Tyler Herbst's book, The Ultimate A-To-Z Bar Guide, lists 112 cocktails using dry vermouth and 82 containing sweet vermouth.[28] Cocktails using either dry or sweet vermouth or both include the Americano,[29] Bronx,[30] Gibson,[31] Manhattan,[32] Negroni,[33] Rob Roy,[34] and Rose.[35] Variations of cocktail recipes using equal portions of dry and sweet vermouths are called perfect, as in a Perfect Manhattan.[11]


While vermouth can be used as a substitute for white wine in food recipes,[23] because it is more flavorful than wine, it may be overwhelming when used in certain dishes.[36] The herbs in dry vermouth make it an attractive ingredient in sauces for fish dishes or as a marinade for other meats, including pork and chicken.[20][37][38]


Because vermouth is fortified, an opened bottle will not sour as quickly as white wine. Opened vermouth, however, will gradually deteriorate over time. Gourmets recommend that opened bottles of vermouth be consumed within one to three months and should be kept refrigerated to slow oxidation.[5][21]

Notable brands

The Carpano family originated several notable brands of vermouth, including Punt e Mes, a deep red vermouth with sweet and bitter flavors, and the Antica Formula brand, a bitter, fuller-flavored version of vermouth.[5][21][24][39] Distillerie Fratelli Branca of Milan bought 50% of the Giuseppe B. Carpano company in 1982 and acquired the company outright in 2001.[40] Gancia, Drapò Vermouth and Cocchi are other Italian producers.

The Cinzano family began production in 1757 in Turin. Their Bianco product is a sweet, pale vermouth.[5][41] Other offerings from Cinzano include a sweet Rouge and a pale Extra Dry.[24]

Martini & Rossi, the top-selling international brand of vermouth, started in 1863 in Turin and produces both dry and sweet vermouths, but is most known for its Rosso.[5][42][43] Cinzano and Martini & Rossi also produce rosé vermouths, which are mainly distributed in Italy and France.[5][21]

Noilly Prat, based in southern France, is primarily known for its dry, pale vermouths, but also produces a sweeter version. The company was founded by Joseph Noilly in 1813. By 1855, Joseph's son, Louis, and his brother-in-law, Claudius Prat, were producing Noilly Prat dry vermouth in Marseillan, Hérault.[5][21][41] Another French producer is Dolin, known for lighter vermouths.[5][21][23]

See also


  1. Jones, Daniel; Gimson, A. C. (1977). Everyman's English Pronouncing Dictionary (14 ed.). London: J.M. Dent & Sons.
  2. (British and World English; US English
  3. 1 2 3 4 Brown & Miller, Jared & Anistatia (2011). The Mixellany Guide to Vermouth & Other Aperitifs. Mixellany Limited. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-907434-29-7.
  4. 1 2 3 Patterson, Troy. "Martini Madness". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Clarke, Paul (15 August 2008). "The Truth About Vermouth: The secret ingredient in today's top cocktails remains misunderstood" (Newspaper article). San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
  6. Boyd, Gerald (April 2007). "Vermouth - The Aromatized Wine". Hotel F&B.
  7. "Gold Medal Sweet Vermouth". Boston Apothecary.
  8. 2010 P. E. McGovern, M. Christofidou-Solomidou, W. Wang, F. Dukes, T. Davidson, and W.S. El-Deiry. "Anticancer Activity of Botanical Compounds in Ancient Fermented Beverages". International Journal of Oncology 37(1), 5–21.
  9. Jared Brown & Anistatia Miller, The Mixellany Guide to Vermouth & Other Apertifs, 2011
  10. 1 2 3 Walton and Glover, p. 496
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Herbst, p. 349
  12. 1 2 3 Walton and Glover, p. 497
  13. 1 2 3 "Vermouth". Moscow Times Bar Guide. Sanoma. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  14. Clarke, Paul (October 2012). "American Beauty - Domestic winemakers are doing vermouth in their own way". Imbibe Magazine.
  15. Coley, Jim. "The Art of the Aperitif". 435 South Magazine. Retrieved September 2012. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  16. Walton and Glover, p. 498; Krader, pp. 120, 129; Herbst, pp. 231, 235–236
  17. Barnes, Bingo. "The Classic Martini." Boise Weekly, 4 May 2005
  18. Ford, p. 166-69
  19. J. Robinson, J. Harding and J. Vouillamoz Wine Grapes - A complete guide to 1,368 vine varieties, including their origins and flavours pgs 102-103, 1130 Allen Lane 2012 ISBN 978-1-846-14446-2
  20. 1 2 Walton and Glover, p. 499
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Bettridge, Jack (30 April 2011), "Italy's Gift to Bartenders", Wine Spectator: 27
  22. 1 2 Walton and Glover, pp. 498–499
  23. 1 2 3 Ward, Bill (10 March 2010). "Beyond martinis, vermouth can shine" (Newspaper article). Star Tribune. Michael J. Klingensmith. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  24. 1 2 3 Viera, Lauren (18 May 2011). "The straight truth about vermouth" (Newspaper article). Chicago Tribune. Tony W. Hunter. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  25. Clark, Paul. "American Beauty". Imbibe magazine. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  26. Walton and Glover, pp. 496, 499; Krader, p. 120
  27. Cole, Katherine (18 January 2011). "Two Local Producers Help Boost Vermouth's Revival" (Newspaper article). The Oregonian. Advance Publications. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  28. Herbst, pp. 378–380
  29. Herbst, pp. 62–63
  30. Krader, p. 129 states this cocktail appeared around 1934
  31. Herbst, p. 237
  32. Krader, p. 129
  33. Krader, p. 123 states that this cocktail originated around 1900
  34. Herbst, p. 291
  35. Herbst, p. 293
  36. Orchant, Rebecca (7 October 2013). "Don't Just Drink Vermouth, Eat It". Huffington Post. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
  37. Cicero, Linda (5 January 2010). "Recipes: Roast Pork with Vermouth and Olives and Bishop's Bread" (Newspaper article). Seattle Times. Frank A. Blethen. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  38. Miami Herald, "Dinner in minutes: Roasted chicken flavored with sage and vermouth", 24 April 2002
  39. Walton and Glover, pp. 497, 499
  40. "The Story: Vermouth Carpano - The Italian Vermouth since 1876". Carpano. Retrieved 2016-03-17.
  41. 1 2 Walton and Glover, pp. 497–498
  42. Walton and Glover, pp. 496, 498
  43. According to Campaign, (14 May 2010), p. 8, "The Week: Advertising News – Smirnoff is Power's top drink", in 2010 Martini was ranked fourth on the list of leading global drinks brands.


Further information

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