Chances are that you are not very familiar with vermouth (neither were we). Most people think of vermouth as something that is added to a Martini, or what old ladies sip on after dinner. However, we recently found out that there is so much more to know about vermouth. Once you have learned why it is essential to every bar, you will have a new appreciation for the apéritif!
At a fun gathering hosted at Milk Tiger Lounge, we learned the basics to help us understand vermouth. Not only is vermouth enjoyable on it’s own and as part of a cocktail, there are many different styles and flavours to try. There is sure to be a vermouth for everyone!
Vermouth is an apéritif, meaning that it is intended to be drank prior to a meal. The word ‘apéritif’ derives from latin, ‘to open up.’ An apéritif should ‘open’ your palate, inducing your appetite and preparing you for the meal ahead.
Vermouth falls under 2 categories, a fortified spirit and an aromatized spirit. A fortified spirit has alcohol added to the base, rather than going through fermentation (converting the natural sugars to alcohol and Co2). An aromatized wine or spirit has the addition of botanical to the base, increasing the taste and phenols. Juniper, coriander, cinnamon are all examples of botanical that can be added.
Vermouth is a vermouth because it contains wormwood. There are other spirits that are fortified and aromatized, but they do not contain wormwood. In order to be called vermouth, one of the botanical added must be wormwood. The word “vermouth” actually comes from the German word for wormwood.
Vermouth can contain many different botanical, creating a recipe that is distinct and representative of a producer’s style and preferences. Some producers will let you know what is in their vermouth, others keep it a secret.
Vermouth comes in 3 styles: dry, blanc, and red/sweet. Dry vermouth is always white in colour, contains less sugar and is ideal for mixing. Red vermouth is also called sweet or Italian vermouth. Blanc vermouth is similar in sweetness to the red vermouths, but has no caramel colour added.
Vermouth has it’s history in the Alpine regions of Switzerland, Germany, Italy and France. Turin, Italy and Chambray, France are the only regions that have a designate for vermouth. Today vermouth is produced around the world.