After a period of bartender and consumer indifference, vermouth is now achingly trendy again. “Me pones un vermut,” or “give me a glass of vermouth” is a phrase you’ll hear constantly in Spain. Indeed, there is nothing more in vogue than sipping vermouth in tapas bars across the Iberian peninsula, while the Italians have long favored a glass of aromatized, fortified wine flavored with botanicals during their sacred aperitivo hour after work. Both nations are justly proud of their versions – don’t ask for a Spanish brand in an Italian local watering hole, and vice versa – although the Italians can lay claim to being the godfathers of the modern vermouth style cocktails.
Historically, vermouth was used for medicinal purposes – the word has its origins in the French pronunciation of the German word “Wermut,” meaning wormwood, which has been a key ingredient in the drink since time immemorial. The practice of making fortified wines containing wormwood spread to France and Italy, and by the mid-1600s the drink was consumed in England as a mix of fortified wine, herbs, roots and spices, called vermouth. However, its official birth occurred in the late 18th century in northern Italy, where it is said Merchant Antonio Benedetto Carpano introduced sweet vermouth to the citizens of Turin. The drink became massively popular within the Turin royal court, and soon French companies were producing their versions, both sweet and dry.
But while vermouth is delicious as a standalone drink, it works even better as a key ingredient to killer cocktails. Indeed, the bartending world would be all the poorer without vermouth. It is an essential part of a Dry Martini, Manhattan, and countless other classic cocktails. Vermouth just adds so much to the final product: intense flavor, texture, and color. Moreover, the resurgence of interest in time-honored recipes and iconic drinks such as The Martini has seen vermouth return to where it belongs – at the top of the mixer tree. The following is a list of classic cocktails that make full use of this versatile and sophisticated mixer, with a few contemporary examples thrown in for good measure.
Classic vermouth cocktails
Ingredients: 75ml gin, 15ml dry vermouth, 1 dash orange bitters
Method: Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with the addition of some ice cubes. Stir until chilled. Then strain into a pre-chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
Ingredients: 4 drops Angostura Bitters, 50ml bourbon, 25ml red vermouth, 2 teaspoons cherry juice.
Method: Pour the ingredients into an ice-filled cocktails shaker. Shake well. Strain into glass.
Ingredients: 35ml gin, 28ml Campari, 21ml red vermouth
Method: Add all the ingredients into a glass with the addition of some ice cubes. Stir until chilled. Serve garnished with an orange twist.
Ingredients: 55ml fino sherry, 55ml red vermouth, 2 dashes of orange bitters
Method: Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with the addition of some ice cubes. Stir until chilled. Then strain the liquid into a chilled coupe glass. Serve with an orange twist.
The Bronx Cocktail
Ingredients: 55ml gin, 15ml dry vermouth, 15ml red vermouth, 30ml freshly squeezed orange juice
Method: Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with the addition of some ice cubes. Shake until chilled. Then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Serve with an orange twist.
Ingredients: 45ml red vermouth, 45ml Campari, soda water
Method: Mix the vermouth and Campari, before pouring into a tall glass filled with ice. Top up with soda water. Garnish with an orange slice.
Contemporary vermouth cocktails
The Pure Bard
Ingredients: 25ml blended whiskey, 25ml red vermouth, 25ml Boudier Guignolet, 25ml blood orange juice
Method: Shake the ingredients together, then fill a tumbler with cubed ice and pour everything in. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.
The Topsy Turvy – from Donna cocktail bar, New York
Ingredients: 60ml Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, 30ml rye whiskey, 1 teaspoon of coffee liqueur, 1 dash of Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Method: Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass, then add some ice cubes. Stir until well-chilled. Strain into a pre-chilled Nick & Nora glass. Serve with an orange twist.
Diamond District – from Amor y Amargo cocktail bar, New York
Ingredients: 60ml Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, 30ml rye whiskey, 2 dashes of lime bitters.
Method: Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass, then add some ice cubes. Stir until well-chilled. Strain into a pre-chilled coupe glass. Serve with a lemon twist.
Downhill Daring – Truxton Inn, Washington DC
Ingredients: 45ml Punt e Mes (Italian vermouth), 15ml Cocchi Americano Aperitivo, 7.5ml Benedictine, 30ml bourbon, 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters, 2 dashes orange bitters
Method: Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass, then add some ice cubes. Stir until well-chilled. Strain into a pre-chilled coupe glass. Squeeze some oil from the peel of an orange and rest it on the rim.