It’s time to raise your ver-Mouth awareness! Yes, vermouth, that dusty bottle of booze sitting on your bar cart (everyone has one of those, right?) that you never know what to do with. You know the story: You were watching Mad Men and suddenly had to make a martini, immediately, so you ran out and bought a whole bottle of vermouth and ended up using about a tablespoon. Now the bottle’s been sitting there, ignored, for months – years? – wondering what it ever did to deserve such neglect.
Vermouth gets a bad rap, mainly because we know so little about it. It’s thought of as the stuff old Italian grandpas drink to settle their stomachs, or that sweet stuff bartenders slosh around willy-nilly, or the ingredient you only need a little of, ever. But vermouth is wonderfully complex, delicious on its own and the unsung hero of whatever cocktail you use it in.
We’re here to give vermouth the praise it deserves. You still with us? Here are the 5 things you need to know:
1. Vermouth is thought to have been invented in Turin, Italy, in the 18th century. Vermouth is the French pronunciation of the German word Wermut, meaning “wormwood,” which was one of the main ingredients in the drink until its prohibition in the early 20th century.
2. Wormwood was thought to kill intestinal parasites, so vermouth was first used for medicinal purposes until people started to realize that, hey, medicine tastes good. Soon, vermouth became popular as a key ingredient to some big time cocktails: the Martini, Manhattan and Negroni. Vermouth’s biggest moment in the spotlight? The 1950’s of course, with James Bond – “Shaken, not stirred.”
3. Technically, vermouth is a wine that’s been fortified (spiked with unaged brandy, which makes it slightly more alcoholic, but not enough so that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated and consumed within a few weeks – it is still wine, after all) and aromatized (infused with botanicals like barks, roots, flowers, seeds and herbs like chamomile, coriander and juniper, which all add flavor and color).
4. Vermouth is an aperitif, a word deriving from the Latin verb aperire, meaning “to open” (that’s about all we remember from Latin class). Aperitifs have a bittersweet character that gets your gastric juices going and thus “opens” your hunger, which is why it’s considered a before-dinner drink.
Now, are you ready to get some in your Mouth? Start here:
Vya Extra Dry Vermouth – With every sip, we're transported further into a dreamy garden, fresh and breezy with sweet-smelling flowers and soft green leaves. (Oh yes.) Beautifully vibrant and aromatic, with impressive balance, we're happy sipping it straight. But it's also our go-to for a 50/50 Martini (1.5 oz gin or vodka, 1.5 oz dry vermouth and a dash of citrus bitters, stirred with ice and strained into a chilled martini glass).
Amberthorn Vermouth – We love to play up the apple notes in this bottle by pairing it with more apple-y Applejack. Combine 2 oz Amberthorn Vermouth, 3/4 oz Cornelius Applejack, 1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice and a dash of lavender or celery bitters in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice. Shake until very cold and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Vya Sweet Vermouth – The bitter herbs in this vermouth make it a fantastic aperitif. Sip Vya Sweet chilled or over ice, garnished with an orange wedge.
Armadillo Cake Vermouth – This dry, spicy vermouth is full with orange citrus and warm spices, and an earthy bitterness that makes it an especially good aperitif to open up the palate before a good meal.
Apple Mint Vermouth – Dry and sippable, the cool, minty finish is totally refreshing (the apple refers to the type of wild mint, by the way, so no fruit here!).