Vermouth Facts for Bartenders

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Vermouth Facts for Bartenders

Vermouth Facts for Bartenders

A clean, crisp martini is unimaginable without vermouth. This elegant and stylish fortified wine has experienced a bit of a revival of late, with many a bartender rediscovering retro-glamour of yesteryear in the form of the Martini, the Manhattan and the Negroni. As a bartender, it’s your job to keep abreast of new trends in the world of liquor. So, here are some essential vermouth facts.


Vermouth unites the sweetness of fortified wine with the aromatic potential of infused botanicals. Vermouth traditionally incorporates the flavours of a range of barks, seeds, herbs and spices. It was originally used as a medicinal libation – particularly in the 19th century when it was imbibed to get rid of intestinal parasites.

It was born in Germany in the 16th century. “Vermouth” is actually derived from the German “wermut” or “wormwood,” a popular component of the beverage at the time. However, vermouth as we know it today was created in Northern Italy in the 17th century, in the hills of Piedmont.

Vermouth is the contemporary result of infusing liquor with restorative herbs. In fact, this practice extends far back in history – all the way to China in 1250 BC. The Ancient Greeks were also known to combine fortified wine with botanicals for medicinal purposes.

 It was only in the mid-1800s that vermouth’s reputation shifted from that of curative tonic to cocktail essential. The Martini was first invented in the 1870s, and sky-rocked in popularity with the rise of the Jazz Age of the 1920s, and the ready availability of bootleg gin. The Manhattan, which appeared in 1874, also signalled other, more recreational ways to imbibe vermouth. Nothing could compete with 1869’s Vermouth Cocktail however, which incorporated the simple combination of chilled vermouth, a twist, and small dashes of bitters.

Famous Vermouth Brands

France and Italy boast the richest Vermouth heritages. In fact, no conversation about vermouth is complete without mention of Cinzano, a fine brand that originated in Turin in 1757. It is recognised for its Bianco vermouth variation, which is pale, sweet and excellent in a Perfect Martini. Other Cinzano variations include a sweet Rosso, as well as a light, Extra Dry Bianco. Martini & Rossi, however, produce the best-selling brand of vermouth in Italy. This is another Turin-based company that is particularly famous for its Rosso variation.

The South of France is where it’s at for excellent French vermouth. Try Noilly-Prat’s pale and dry varietal for the crispest dry martinis. Dolin is another light and dry brand, which makes for a perfect aperitif.

How to Enjoy Vermouth

The best way to enjoy vermouth is undoubtedly as an aperitif. An aperitif is a cocktail that is usually served before a meal. It’s designed to stimulate the appetite and whet the palate for the meal to come. Traditional aperitifs are light, dry or sparkling.

A White Negroni, for instance, is a trendy cocktail with some retro-Italian flair. Mix 30ml of gin (Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire are best) with 15 ml of dry vermouth and 30ml of Cocchi Americano in a shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist. Ideally, this should be enjoyed at sunset on a sotto terrazzo in Piedmonte, overlooking the rolling green hills of the surrounding countryside.