If you have ever enjoyed a martini or other cocktail, then you have likely already had Vermouth before. This drink is made from fortified wine mixed with herbs and spices to create an aromatic drink that is bursting with various different flavors.
Martini liquor is one of the most popular types of vermouth, however there are many others brands that taste even better.
Vermouth varies between red and white varieties, and can be either sweet or dry. It originated in France, where it was commonly drunk before a meal to help diners build up an appetite.
Outside of France, this drink is commonly used as a mixer for creating martinis, manhattans, negronis and many other cocktails.
With so many different types available, it can be hard to find the right vermouth for you. The wrong choice could leave you with an alcohol that is too bitter, or too sweet, depending on your preference. That’s why we have put together this list of the best vermouth you can buy for your next cocktail party.
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Lillet Blanc is one of the most famous examples of a quinquina, which is type of wine made with the bark of the cinchona tree. Unlike many other drinks in this category, Lillet contains no quinine, which used to be used in the treatment of malaria.
Instead, it achieves its distinctive flavor by mixing the Sémillon wine with Spanish and Moroccan liqueurs blended with bitter green orange peels.
This vermouth is often enjoyed as an apéritif, which is an alcoholic beverage drunk before a meal to improve the appetite. Each batch is stored in its oak barrel for up to 6 months, and it has a distinctly sweet taste that combines elements of pineapple and cardamom. It goes well with almost any meal, but is particularly pleasant with a cheese platter and some crackers.
Without any quinine, this drink is not as bitter as one would normally expect when drinking a quinquina. As mentioned above, it primarily a very sweet wine that opens with the flavor of tinned pineapple and honey. It has an alcohol content of 17% and goes great in several cocktails such as, martinis, Manhattans, and green mandarin negronis.
- Sweet wine that is very palatable.
- Bitter taste with sweet notes of pineapple.
- It can be enjoyed straight or in a variety of different cocktails.
- Lack of quinine gives this wine a different taste from other quinquinas.
Dubonnet Rouge Apéritif
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This is another apéritif wine from France, but this time a red one that is a proper quinquina. This means it contains quinine, which lends it a slightly bitter edge that makes a nice contrast to the overall sweetness of the drink. Much like Lillet Blanc, this wine is still very sweet and makes a delicious addition to any meal or cocktail.
Dubonnet has a smell and initial taste that is very reminiscent of port, and it also has a similar ABV of 19%. There are hints of herbs and spice in the smell, but they are much more prominent in the taste of this drink, where they complement the mixture of blackcurrants and tea.
Originally this wine was given to french colonial soldiers for its antimalarial properties, and since then it has undergone some substantial changes.
One difference between the modern Dubonnet rouge and the old is that it’s flavors are much clearer and less muddy. It still has a somewhat syrupy feel in the mouth, that some may find unpleasant alongside the sweetness. Overall, it is still a delicious red vermouth that is best enjoyed chilled with a hearty meal.
- Contains quinine for a slightly more bitter taste.
- Sweet wine with hints of plum, blackcurrant and black tea.
- Less muddy than older vintages of Dubonnet.
- May be too syrupy for some drinkers.
La Quintinye Extra Dry Vermouth
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We have already looked at a few sweet vermouth, but not everybody likes their alcohol to taste sugary. La Quintinye is an extra dry vermouth that is bitter but still makes a very refreshing apéritif. Since it doesn’t have as much sweetness, you will be able to better appreciate the different flavors this drink has to offer.
This dry white vermouth smells of coconut, ginger and dried mint, which make up just a few of the botanics added during the brewing process. It tastes very similar to its smell but with distinctive notes of peppercorns, cinnamon and grapefruit.
These diverse flavors make for a great sipping wine that goes perfectly with a meal, or alongside a wide variety of cocktail mixers.
One other drink that goes amazingly with La Quintinye is gin, and you can use both to make delicious martinis. The floral body of this drink also makes it great with a lemon wedge as part of a spritz, or vesper.
If you prefer, then this drink is equally enjoyable straight, provided you can handle the lack of sweetness, and makes a refreshing addition to any meal.
- Not too sweet.
- Made of a delicious combination of 27 different herbs and plants.
- Pairs well with gin to make delicious cocktails.
- This extra dry vermouth may be difficult to drink by itself.
Asterley Bros Estate English Vermouth
This is an English vermouth made from a pinot noir red wine that comes from Kent. A good deal of red Vermouth is composed of white wine that has berries and other ingredients added to it for the coloring. Since Asterley Bro’s is made from an actual red wine, it has a much darker color that is almost completely opaque.
While this vermouth is similar to an Italian rosso, it is significantly less sweet, which makes it a great choice for those who prefer their alcohol dry. There are 31 different botanics added to this wine, including orange, rosemary and wormwood. These combine to give this drink a sweet flavor, with hints of citrus and deep earthy notes.
Asterley Bros Estate can be enjoyed alone with a slice of orange, and tastes quite similar to port. Alternatively, this drink can be used as a mixer to make a delicious Manhattan or Negroni. The best part is, you only need a little bit of this alcohol to add a lot of flavor to your cocktail.
- An English version of an Italian rosso which isn’t overwhelmingly sweet.
- Contains 31 different botanics including orange, rosemary and wormwood.
- Mixes well with a variety of mixers to make excellent cocktails.
- Difficult to find in the US.
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Italian rossos are a different type of vermouth, that is often a fair bit sweeter than the French variety. Cinzano Rosso strikes the perfect balance between sweet and bitter with a blend of red wine mixed with 35 different herbs and spices.
The color of this wine is made extra dark by the addition of caramel, which helps to counterbalance some of the spices in this mix such as thyme, coriander and cloves.
This drink is initially sweet but has a sumptuous follow-up that tastes of cocoa, orange and nutmeg. With such a deep, rich flavor, this wine tastes great by itself with a slice of orange for the garnish.
The best part about this vermouth is its balance, as it is neither too sweet, nor too bitter.
With such a varied collection of spices and herbs in every sip, this drink makes a great mixer for a wide variety of cocktails. It can be used as part of a Manhattan, or negroni, as well as tasty deep red martinis. This drink is very affordable, but that doesn’t stop it being a luxurious wine that goes very well alongside a meal.
- A complex wine made from a blend of 35 different herbs and spices.
- Made with real Italian red wine, rather than colored white wine.
- It can be enjoyed by itself or as part of a delicious cocktail.
- The spicy taste of this drink may be off-putting for some.
Noilly Prat Original Dry
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This French quinquina is made from a blend of two different white wines, which are matured in separate casks before being mixed with a spices and herbs.
Although it isn’t sweet, this drink has a distinct fruity taste that brings out the depth of the various herbs.
Noilly Prat has recently released its European blend in America, which has a much more complex and satisfying taste compared to the old American version.
Along with the fruity taste of citrus and berries, this vermouth has gorgeous notes of juniper, and thyme. It also has a slightly bitter aftertaste, which is to be expected of any quality dry vermouth.
Other botanicals that have been mixed with this vermouth include chamomile, elder flower and coriander.
Noilly prat can be enjoyed straight with a lime wedge as a refreshing drink to have before dinner. However, this brand gained its popularity in the US for its suitability as a mixer in cocktails. If you want to make a delicious dry martini, then this is the vermouth for you.
- Made from a blend of two different white wines.
- Contains 20 delicious herbs and spices.
- The perfect mixer for a dry martini.
The aftertaste may too bitter for some.
Vya Sweet Vermouth
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Vermouth purists may be put off by the fact that this wine is made in California rather than Italy. Despite this, it is still a premium red vermouth that is suitably sweet for making cocktails while still being pleasant to drink on its own.
It is made from a blend of 17 herbs and spices, including nutmeg and Indonesian cinnamon.
While this is a sweeter drink, it is also quite tart thanks to the addition of orange rind and berries. This makes it very satisfying to drink by itself as an apéritif, as well as making it work well in several cocktails.
One of the best cocktails to make with this vermouth is an Americano, which involves mixing a sweet vermouth with an equal measure of campari
This wine is reasonably expensive when compared to its competition, but makes up for it with a complex flavor that isn’t overwhelming sweet like other red vermouth. Its bittersweet flavor makes it suitable for Manhattans and negronis as well as sweet martinis and americanos.
- Red Vermouth, made from a blend of two different grapes.
- Bittersweet flavor that incorporates 17 delicious herbs and spices.
- Works well for Americano cocktails.
Buyers Guide to Vermouth
Buying the right vermouth isn’t easy, and there are many different varieties for you to choose from.
Some will work better than others for various cocktails, and your own personal taste in alcohol will play a large part in which one you pick. Here are some helpful tips to bear in mind while shopping for a premium vermouth.
Dry vs Sweet
The first question you should ask yourself before buying vermouth is whether you prefer your drinks sweet or dry. This will largely come down to your own personal preferences and how sweet you like your drinks to be.
There is an old rule that says that the best sweet vermouth should be one from Italy, while the best dry comes from France.
While this rule doesn’t always hold true, it is the case that many high quality sweet wines come from Italy, while French vermouth is often the better choice for those who like their drinks dry.
Since vermouth is typically used in cocktails, you should also consider the type of drink you want to make. Sweet red vermouth is great for making Manhattans, (see also: Best Vermouth For Manhattan)or negronis.
On the other hand, if what you want is a nice dry martini, then you would be better off picking a dry white vermouth instead.
Vermouth is typically infused with a blend of herbs and spices, so you should try to find out what flavors are present before you buy a bottle.
If you don’t like certain spices like cardamom or cloves, then a wine that contains these ingredients won’t suit your palate at all.
Always think about the kind of flavors in you like in your alcohol, and you are guaranteed to find a vermouth that matches your tastes after a bit of searching.
What Are You Using It For
If you want to drink your vermouth straight, then you will probably want to find one that is suitably strong and has a flavor you will enjoy on its own.
On the other hand, if you plan to use it as a mixer, then you will want to consider how the taste of the wine will interact with other ingredients in your cocktails.
Perhaps you won’t enjoy a sweet red Italian rosso by itself, but it could make the perfect addition to a negroni cocktail.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Vermouth?
Vermouth is a type of fortified wine that is mixed with a blend of herbs and spices. One of the original Vermouth was a type of quinquina wine that was made with the bark of the cinchona tree.
This bark contained quinine, which has natural antimalarial qualities. As such, this drink was given to french colonial soldiers in Africa to prevent them catching Malaria.
After the colonial wars, this drink found commercial success in France, where it was commonly drunk as an apéritif. This is a specific type of alcoholic beverage that is drunk before a meal to work up an appetite.
Does Vermouth Spoil?
Much like any other wine, Vermouth will spoil if left open for too long. Once you pop the cork, a bottle of vermouth will generally last a month before it starts to degrade, provided it is kept cool in the fridge.
It is very important to keep any wine out of direct sunlight, as this can cause a reaction that will cause it to spoil faster. If you have some vermouth that you suspect has gone bad, then don’t worry, as it will still be suitable for cooking.
What Drinks Can You Make With Vermouth?
Vermouth is commonly used for as a mixer for making cocktails, and it can be used to create a wide variety of tasty drinks. Here are a few of the most popular cocktails that can be made with vermouth.
- Martini: Made from a dry vermouth mixed with vodka or gin and garnished with a slice of lime or lemon.
- Manhattan: Made from a mixture of bourbon, sweet and dry vermouth in equal measures, 2 splashes of Angostura bitters and cherry eau di vie.
- Classic Negroni: Equal measures of Gin, sweet vermouth and Campari (see also: Campari vs Aperol – What’s the Difference?)with ice and garnished with a slice of orange.
- Americano: Equal measures of sweet vermouth and Campari topped off with soda water and garnished with a slice of orange.
- Spritz: Equal measures of sweet and dry vermouth, along with gin and dried lavender. Garnish with lemon and fresh lavender sprigs.