Vermouth has a somewhat enigmatic nature, perhaps best known as a staple ingredient in a martini. But what really is Vermouth?
At its core, Vermouth is a fortified wine flavoured with botanicals. Anything from roots, barks, flowers, fruits, leaves, and seeds are infused into a wine base.
Traditionally, Vermouth was used for medicinal purposes back in 400DC, until in 1786 an Italian man named Carpano tried to mask low quality or old white wine by mixing it with herbs and spices. Wormwood was one of the primary botanicals used to flavour the concoction and inspired the name ‘Vermouth’ from its German translation – Wermut. From there the drink became increasingly common to consume as an aperitif.
There are two main types of Vermouth, sweet and dry. However competition and innovation have resulted in extra-dry white, sweet white, red and rose varieties. While the drink’s origins are rooted deep in Italy and France, today Vermouth is produced across the world, including Australia (think Maidenii). The three main varieties to look out for are:
- Red/brown – Known as sweet, Italian, or rosso. Often infused with caramel notes.
- Clear/white – Known as bianco, has a sweeter profile.
- Straw – Known as dry or French. A herbaceous and slightly bitter profile.
Hot tip? Keep it in the fridge. While it lasts a bit longer than wine, a couple of weeks in and an opened bottle won’t taste quite the same. It’s lower ABV of 15-18% means it starts to oxidize once exposed to air. Worst comes to worst, use a forgotten bottle in your cooking as a substitute for wine.