My experience thus far with Vermouth is a poorly made Martini and a poorly made Manhattan, so I wasn’t surprised that I wasn’t too excited about writing a post about it. But, bear with me, and you’ll find that Vermouth is better than you think. Way better.
A good friend of mine suggested it would make a good post and got me started with some great information, so I bought a bottle of sweet/red and dry Vermouth. After playing around with it in a few drinks, I ended up drinking it neat, and now love it. I doubt most people would enjoy it neat, but this is always a great way to really understand your cocktail ingredients and what flavor they impart.
Things to know about Vermouth
First, let’s talk about what vermouth is. Vermouth is an aromatized and fortified wine. That basically means that it’s wine with brandy and botanicals (herbs, spices, roots, bark) added. That leads us to the first thing I, and probably most people, didn’t understand. Unlike the rest of your liquor cabinet, these guys spoil just like wine. Because of the higher alcohol content, it might take a little longer than wine, but it will still definitely spoil.
Second, Vermouth is a pretty cool drink that has been a staple aperitif for forever. However, it’s pretty unappreciated in America, and has been for a long time. Not really sure why, but I can definitely support this. I’ve only had it once or twice as a secondary ingredient, and I’d be willing to bet most people are the same way.
Third, there are a bunch of different varieties that you can somewhat connected across makers, but Red/Sweet and Dry are what are most commonly available. For this post, I’ll concentrate on the Red/Sweet.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s drink it!
Vermouth Spoiling Taste Test
Earlier in the post we talked about how Vermouth spoils after opening, so let’s taste test how.
Not knowing this, I of course had a bottle of Sweet Vermouth open in my liquor cabinet for months, which makes for a perfect comparison. We tried both the brand-new and the old and opened Vermouth neat.
The brand-new Vermouth was sweet, bright, and had a nice herb smell and aftertaste, like having a glass of Italian Red Wine and one of those little rosemary breadstick things the have in Italian restaurants (kind of brought me back to Italy, actually). Now that I know that, I’ll enjoy it frequently neat or on the rocks.
The old Vermouth was probably not old enough to have a off odor or taste, but it will if left unconsumed long enough. Instead, it wasn’t that bad, it just wasn’t that good. It had lost all the best parts of the brand-new Vermouth, and had gotten fairly boring.
The best advise I was given here is to only buy the little (375 mL) bottle unless you know you’ll go through more quickly. Also, be aware that you may get bad Vermouth at a bar or restaurant if they’re not going through it quickly.
Some really good additional information can be found here: vermouth101.com