In re: Vermouth?

Vermouth’s commercial origins date to 1786, when Antonio Benedetto Carpano began marketing the aromatized wine he produced in Turin, but the consumption of vermouth and its precursors stretches back centuries. Typically made from neutral-character dry white wines that have been flavored with herbs, roots and barks – typically including cardamom, cinnamon, marjoram and chamomile – and then fortified with a neutral grape spirit, vermouth is classically made – and named – for another botanical: wormwood (the plant’s name in Old High German is Wermud). ‘The Truth About Vermouth’ (below)

Vermouth is kinda an afterthought in the world of drinks – at least I thought it was.  Even as I got back into drinking Manhattans a drink that features as a large amount of the drink the sweet variety of vermouth I still hadn’t given it its due.  Hell, I didn’t even really know too much about it and how it was made.  I knew it was a fortified wine of some sort (wine spiked with alcohol) but that was it.  As I became more interested in improving my Manhattans I learned a few very interesting things, including that my multi-year old bottle sitting on the shelf was not good.  It’s not that affordable vermouth isn’t good and there are many affordable brands, all with their own tastes due to a variety of added herbs/spices as well as grapes, but I learned it goes bad and isn’t shelf stable the way liquor is.

So I set out to get some fresh stuff (currently using Boissiere – although I am interested in trying some of the more exotic ones now) but the big thing is that I now keep it in the fridge.  Thats right, in the fridge, I myself was dubious at first but after reading taste test after taste test it became clear that vermouth oxidizes and starts to go bad, pretty quickly on the shelf.  In the fridge you can get 6 months out of sweet (less for dry) and thats still shorter than the stuff I had been using a while back.

Now theres still more to making a Manhattan the just the vermouth, but having improved my work on that one front alone my Manhattans are quite nice (usually made with Maker’s Mark bourbon – although I am interested in dabbling in rye at some point).  Still not up to the standards of the Velvet Tango Room in Cleveland that has probably the best one I have had (they use their own bitters and a wine reduction instead of the vermouth as well as having a nice cherry that isn’t a Maraschino).

Makers's Mark, boissiere vermouth, bitters, and a wine soaked sour cherry on the rocks

For what I thought was a great article on Vermouth see “The Truth About Vermouth” at SFGate — hey that rhymes!


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