What is Vermouth? A Beginner’s Guide

Explore the captivating world of vermouth, a delightful fortified wine boasting a rich history, diverse flavors, and endless cocktail possibilities.

Vermouth is a fortified wine that has been aromatized with a blend of botanicals, including herbs, spices, and roots. This popular cocktail ingredient has a long history, and its origins can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. It is a versatile beverage that can be enjoyed on its own or as a key ingredient in cocktails like the Martini and the Negroni.

The History of Vermouth

The history dates back to the 18th century in Turin, Italy, where it originated as a medicinal tonic. People believed that wormwood, a key ingredient, possessed medicinal properties that aided digestion and provided relief for various ailments.

The popularity rapidly spread across Europe, captivating aristocrats by the 19th century. It soon found its way into cocktails, with the first recorded use of it in a cocktail dating back to 1860 for the Manhattan.


Dry and sweet vermouth, the two most common types, exhibit distinct characteristics. In terms of sweet vermouth, also known as red or Italian vermouth, it features a fruity and sweet taste, infused with spices and herbs. Moreover, its reddish-brown hue makes it easily recognizable. This variety plays a crucial role in classic cocktails like the Manhattan, Negroni, and Martinez.

In contrast, when it comes to dry vermouth, also referred to as white or French vermouth, it contains less sugar and displays a pale yellow color. Notably, its flavor profile leans towards dryness, showcasing herbal notes and the essence of white wine. As a result, this variation becomes a staple ingredient in renowned cocktails such as the Martini and the Gibson.

When deciding between dry and sweet vermouth in cocktails, it all depends on the specific recipe at hand. Generally, a Martini traditionally calls for dry vermouth, while a Manhattan relies on sweet vermouth. However, certain cocktails like the Rob Roy or the Perfect Manhattan incorporate both dry and sweet vermouth. Ultimately, the selection between dry and sweet vermouth boils down to personal preference and the desired flavor profile for the cocktail.

Cocktails to try



  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish


Add the rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well-chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and enjoy!



  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • Orange peel for garnish


Add the gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with an orange peel and enjoy!



  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • Lemon peel or olive for garnish


Add the gin and dry vermouth to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well-chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel or olive and enjoy!

How do you store vermouth?

To ensure your vermouth stays fresh and flavorful, it’s best to store it in the refrigerator after opening. Keep the bottle tightly sealed and try to consume it within a few weeks for optimal taste. Additionally, avoid storing it near strong-smelling foods or in direct sunlight.

Brands to Try

If you’re a fan of cocktails, then vermouth is likely a staple in your liquor cabinet. But with so many brands and types available, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are the top brands to try, each with its own unique flavor profile:

  • Cocchi Vermouth di Torino – an Italian brand with a rich, complex flavor that’s perfect for classic cocktails like the Negroni.
  • Dolin Vermouth de Chambery – a French classic known for its light, floral taste that’s perfect for spritzes and other light cocktails.
  • Punt e Mes – a bold and bitter Italian brand that’s ideal for adding depth to cocktails.
  • Carpano Antica Formula – an Italian brand with a sweet and spicy taste that’s perfect for sipping or using in classic cocktails like the Manhattan.
  • Vya Vermouth – a newer California brand with a light, citrusy taste that’s ideal for modern cocktails.

In conclusion, vermouth is a versatile and crucial ingredient in the world of cocktails. With its rich history, various types, and unique brands, it presents endless opportunities to create delicious and innovative drinks. Proper storage and care can ensure its longevity and usability.

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