Vermouth in a Bottle
𝅘𝅥𝅲𝅘𝅥𝅲 If you wanna drink with me
Baby there’s a price to pay
I’m just vermouth in a bottle,
But you gotta store me the right way…𝅘𝅥𝅲𝅘𝅥𝅲
Oh hey there, I see you were just checking out the lyrics to this new, soon to be instant hit. While I have you here, let’s talk about a very misunderstood, sometimes abused, and grossly underutilized beverage. Vermouth!
As many of you currently embark on a dry or off dry January and February, for those of you not abstaining entirely, this is the perfect low ABV beverage. You might recognize vermouth from such classics as the Martini and the Manhattan. But vermouth is capable of so much more than that. Vermouth is your friend. It’s essentially a premade, low abv cocktail. It can be enjoyed chilled and served over ice, easy as that. Maybe a twist of citrus, perhaps a splash of soda. Stirring a pot of risotto? Keep your other hand busy with a cold glass of vermouth, it’s the perfect aperitif!
Before I further extoll its many virtues, let’s talk about what exactly you’re drinking. First off, vermouth is a fortified wine. This is a really important detail, because like wine, it must be stored and treated with care. Most spirits have a very long shelf life once open, and they can tolerate temperature changes. Vermouth is mostly wine infused with herbs, and fortified with spirit, so the clock start ticking once you open a bottle. Keep vermouth in the refrigerator once opened, and make sure the cork or cap is on securely. Oxygen is the enemy. Your open vermouth can last up to several months if stored properly, and if you don’t open it that often, possibly longer. If you’re planning to enjoy vermouth on its own, it will probably be best sipped within the first two or three weeks.
How is this mysterious beverage so complex and delicious? Vermouth, a name derived from the German word for wormwood (wermut), is an aromatized wine. It contains many botanicals and spices including, as the name suggests, wormwood. While most vermouth recipes are tightly guarded, some recipes being hundreds of years old, the quality of the base wine is equally important. Grape varieties will vary depending on the country, and some vermouths have a style dictated by certain grapes, such as robust Barolo Chinato, that starts with a base of Barlo wine. Other have a style specific to the region and are protected by AOC, like Dolin.
For most production, the base wine is infused or macerated with a variety of herbs, spices, and flowers. Allspice, Cinnamon, Clove, Genepy, Wormwood, Rosemary, Bay Laurel, Orris root...the list could go on and on, as many as 50 for some recipes. If you’re looking for a savory profile, you’ll want dry vermouth. It’s the ingredient that gives classic Gin Martinis their oomph. For a sweet, the default is typically a rosso/rouge vermouth that gets its color from the addition of caramelized sugar and/or the botanical maceration. This is essential to making a classic Manhattan or Negroni. Additionally, Bianco and Blanco vermouths are both sweet and white or light in color. They tend to be fruit forward, full bodied, and fresh. These are lovely just on their own over ice, or with a splash of soda.
And don’t forget to enjoy responsibly, and by that I mean: store your Vermouth properly! Make a space in the fridge for vermouth parking only. Take good care of it and I promise it’ll do right by you too.
Written by Nat Harry, Cask Spirit Buyer