Ingredient Spotlight: Vermouth April 17 2015

 

Historically, vermouth hasn’t gotten much love from Anglo-American drinkers. (Famed martini-lover Alfred Hitchcock once said that the closest he wanted to get to a bottle of vermouth was looking at it across the room.) However, recent years have brought about a renaissance for the fortified, aromatized wine. Usually less than 20% alcohol by volume, vermouth is a great way to make low-booze cocktails with a spirit-forward taste.

It’s also a good way to update a beloved classic drink. Aficionados rave about the inverted manhattan, whose 1:2 ratio of whiskey to vermouth reverses the standard manhattan recipe. Vermouth-centric versions of the martini and the negroni also exist.

Keep in mind the three facts below, and you’ll be ready to have your own fun with this classic cocktail ingredient!

  1. There are multiple types of vermouth (but at least two you should know.)

Vermouth originated in the alpine foothills of what is now northern Italy and the Savoy region of southern France. This national divide created two main types of vermouth: a reddish sweet vermouth made in Italy and a lighter dry vermouth manufactured mostly in France. The sweet version is what you’ll find in drinks like the negroni and manhattan, while dry vermouth is most often found in a martini.

Those are the only two varieties necessary for a basic bar. If your palate tires of these traditional categories, however there are still many more to try. The more adventurous can mix a manhattan with bitter Punt e Mes or try a martini with bright Dolin Blanc “white vermouth.” The possibilities are endless!

  1. You should store vermouth in the fridge.

One common misconception about vermouth is that it belongs in the liquor cabinet. Though its relatively high alcohol content means that it won’t spoil as quickly as cabernet, fortified wine is still wine. It needs to be kept in the fridge after opening, or it’ll go bad within a couple of weeks.

  1. Vermouth isn’t just for cocktails.
Next week, we’ll explore a Rejigger recipe, the Almost Perfect Manhattan, that features a hefty dose of vermouth. But you don’t need to wait for us to start enjoying this bold new liquor. In Europe, vermouth is considered an apertif, and often consumed by itself. You should feel no shame about enjoying a small glass of it served straight up or over ice. If that seems like a bridge too far, you can always add a dash of soda water to make a vermouth fizz—or combine both sweet and dry vermouth to make a French Kiss.