Back when it was first invented, Vermouth was used as patent medicine, a harmless cure-all with a medicinal flavor that made many people believe it had the power to heal anything from frazzled nerves to bouts of consumption. Though there really is no medicinal benefit to drinking Vermouth, this herbal, bitter fortified wine has remained a popular ingredient in mixed drinks and is still enjoyed as a once-a-day preventative in some parts of France and Italy.
Vermouth is made by adding a mixture of herbs and spices to white wine during the fermentation process. Each Vermouth maker uses their own unique blend and these recipes are all closely guarded secrets. This means that the aromas and flavors found in Vermouth can vary considerably from one label to another. After the yeast has fermented out all the sugars, Vermouth is then fortified with a distilled grape liquor and then sweetened with sugar as needed for the particular style.
There are a variety of different styles of Vermouth, including Dry Vermouth, which is a common ingredient in the Martini, and Sweet Vermouth, which is usually red in color thanks to the addition of certain herbs and caramelized sugars. In France and Italy, both Sweet and Dry Vermouth are often enjoyed on their own as an aperitif or a digestif and though you wouldn't want to drink a glass of every type of Vermouth, there are some mild ones that are delicious neat or poured over ice.
Best Dry Vermouth:
Dry vermouth is one of the most important ingredients in a Classic Martini. Though this herbal, fortified wine is often used as a component for gin or vodka based cocktails, in France, Italy, and Spain, it's also frequently enjoyed on its own as a before dinner drink. When coming up with our list of the best dry vermouth, we looked for popular brands that are well-loved by traditionalists who like their Martinis dry and their aperitifs herbal. We also chose for vermouths that are relatively easy to find at major retailers. Finally, the vermouths that made this list are all uniquely flavored fortified wines that stand out from the crowd thanks to their secret blends of herbs and spices.
A secret blend of around 20 different herbs and spices go into Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth. This vermouth is the quintessential component of the American Martini, and so strong is the American taste for this extra dry vermouth that Noilly Prat was forced to resurrect the recipe after attempting to phase it out in 2009. Fortunately, it's back on the market and once again ready to add complexity and aromatics to Martinis and other cocktails. Read Full Review
Made in Italy for over a hundred years, Martini & Rossi Extra Dry Vermouth is one of our favorites. It's aromatic and rather sweet, without the intensely bitter aftertaste that's found in most vermouths. Though a bit too strong to drink on its own, this vermouth makes a great addition to a Martini or other cocktail. Read Full Review
A vermouth that's dry, light, and refreshing, Dolin Dry Vermouth is one of our best picks. It's herbal and earthy without being overly pungent, making this one of the few dry vermouths that can be enjoyed in a Martini or over ice as an aperitif. Read Full Review
A Spanish vermouth, Perucchi Gran Reserva Dry Vermouth is one of our favorites. It's been made from a hand-selected mixture of herbs and spices since the mid 1800s and features intense aromatics that are well balanced by sweetness and bitterness. This high quality dry vermouth can be enjoyed on its own or as a part of a cocktail. Read Full Review
Vya Extra Dry Vermouth is an herbal drink that doesn't overwhelm the palate. It's excellent on its own or mixed into a vodka based cocktail. Though the exact blend of flowers and leaves used is a secret, there are notes of lavender, orris, linden, and angelica that make this a unique vermouth. Read Full Review
Best Sweet Vermouth:
Made from wine that's been infused with unique blends of herbs, fortified with extra alcohol, and sweetened with sugar, sweet vermouth is a popular aperitif in Italy and around the world. We have chosen some of the most popular sweet vermouths for this list, focusing on well-known brands that are easy to find at liquor stores and at online retailers. We also selected vermouths that are delicious in a variety of different cocktails, especially those that use bold whiskey or rye. It's important to note that each sweet vermouth has its own unique blend of aromatic herbs and spices, so the flavors can vary dramatically. There's no ideal when it comes to sweet vermouth and there are a wide variety of excellent vermouths that suit people with different tastes and appreciations.
Excellent on its own or in a cocktail, Carpano Antica Formula is our favorite sweet vermouth. Made in Italy from a centuries-old recipe, this fortified wine is sweet, herbal, and bitter, with notes of orange, rose, mint, toffee, and spice. Read Full Review
Infused with the seeds, bark, and roots of 17 different herbs and spices, Vya Sweet Vermouth is an excellent choice for a complex cocktail or an aromatic before dinner drink. With strong notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, this is an excellent vermouth for anyone who loves the smell of freshly baked cookies and spice cakes. It also pairs very well with whiskey and rye. Read Full Review
For an inexpensive sweet vermouth with an expressive nose and spicy flavor, Cinzano Sweet Vermouth fits the bill. It has lots of citrus, cinnamon, and dried fruit to it, and a bitter aftertaste that balances out the sweetness well. This vermouth is best enjoyed in a cocktail or mixed with soda or juice as it's a bit strong on its own. Read Full Review
Dolin Sweet Vermouth is a subtle, well-balanced vermouth that hails from the French Alps. It's infused with herbs and spices native to the area, giving it a unique flavor that suits a wide variety of cocktails. This vermouth is subtle, mildly bittersweet, and has complex aromatics. Read Full Review
A strongly flavored vermouth with a great balance of sweet, spicy, and bitter elements, Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth is one of our favorites. It has bold flavors and aromatics and is infused with thirty different herbs and spices. This vermouth will hold its own when added to intensely flavorful cocktails, but can also be enjoyed mixed with soda or over ice if you like your aperitifs on the strong side.
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