Vermouth: What It Is, What It Tastes Like, And Where To Buy It
What is Vermouth?
Vermouth is a unique category of alcoholic beverage most often produced in Italy and France. Some mistake it for a liquor, but it is actually a fortified wine. Fortified wines have an additional alcoholic spirit added in, such as brandy, and naturally a higher ABV. Vermouth is generally sweetened, and botanicals or spices are added in, aromatizing and flavoring the wine.
Answering the question of whether or not vermouth is a spirit can be difficult, as it's not exactly not a spirit. Officially, however, vermouth is classified as a wine, and therefore it's better to drink it fresh within a few days once opened; refrigeration is preferred as well in order to prevent oxidation. Believing vermouth to be a liquor and treating it as such can lead to your vermouth spoiling, so when you buy yourself some vermouth, make sure the expiration date is valid and it hasn't been on the shelf for over three years.
Treat that vermouth like the wine that it is!
What Does Vermouth Taste Like?
Every vermouth has a unique flavor profile, with aromas and tasting notes resulting from the wine, botanicals, and spirits it contains, as well as the process used to create it. There are two main types of vermouth: dry vermouth is lighter and generally has undertones in the fruity, herbal, citrus and floral categories, while sweet vermouth is brighter and more full-bodied, with tasting notes of spices such as caramel, vanilla, and darker fruits.
Vermouth's superpower is enhancing the ingredients around it, and this shines through in the various popular cocktail recipes with vermouth as a key ingredient.
That being said, it is hard to be exact as to what any individual bottle of vermouth will taste like, as the flavor profiles vary widely and each bottle of vermouth is its own story of unique aromas and tasting notes. Dylan Garret of Bartender Basics, in response to why vermouth is such a popular cocktail ingredient, answered "Versatility. There are few other ingredients that can combine such a range of flavor, aroma and textural profiles into a single pour."
Where To Buy Vermouth
So... at this point you're probably wondering, where can I buy myself some vermouth?
The easiest place to buy vermouth is from an online store dedicated to selling alcoholic beverages. Many will carry vermouth, but those with a focus on craft and artisanal wines and liquor are preferable, in order to get the widest selection of unique and high quality vermouth.
Tipxy.com has a wide and constantly expanding selection of vermouth, with a price range that varies from $9 to $55. Along with its focus on making small batch craft products available globally, Tipxy offers free shipping for any orders over $99 as well, making it stand out among similar online alcohol stores. Vermouth can be ordered from Drizly as well, but the selection is dependent on what's in stock in local stores in your area, as they just pick up the product for you instead of ship it from a third party.
2. Grocery Stores
Depending on the alcohol content and store, vermouth can possibly be found in either the wine or liquor aisles at your nearest grocery store. Some stores that have been known to carry vermouth in their beer, wine, or liquor aisles are Whole Foods, Safeway, Trader Joe's, Kroger, Target, and Publix. Not all of these stores will carry vermouth, as not all stores have an alcoholic beverage section, and even if they do, it's not a guarantee vermouth is included. The selection in grocery stores varies as well, and many grocery stores don't have a wide selection of vermouth. It's worth checking out if you're there anyways, but maybe not worth a special trip without checking their inventory in advance.
3. Liquor Stores
If it is a wine and spirits store, there's a good chance your liquor store will carry vermouth, however in some states liquor stores stick only to spirits. It may be better to find out ahead of time if your local liquor store carries vermouth. As always, the selection will depend on your liquor stores size and drink preference, and the state you live in as well.
Our Favorite 2 Artisanal Vermouth Brands
1. Padro & Co.
History of Padro & Co. Vermouth
With 5 unique high quality vermouth bottles, Padro & Co. boasts broad diversity of flavors and styles along with a vermouth for everyone and everything... and let's not forget that artsy bottle. The Padro & Co. Vermouth bottles have won all sorts of awards, and once you try it you'll understand why.
From left to right in the Instagram post above:
Padro & Co. Blanco Reserva Vermouth- $33.99 at Tipxy.com
Made in Tarragona, Spain, and with an 18% ABV, the Blanco Reserva is smooth, sophisticated, and well rounded, with a hint of both sweetness and bitterness. The finish and aftertaste is citrusy, elegant, and fresh.
"Blanco Reserva is a blended infusion of aromatic herbs with the peel of a several different citrus fruits. After several months of maceration, aged white Mistela (sweet wine) is added specifically for this vermouth. The blend creates intense aromas of pleasant lemon verbena, star anise and angelica. Blanco Reserva is a lighter vermouth that mixes well with spirits like gin, rye whiskies and lighter bodied rums."
Padro & Co. Rojo Clasico Vermouth- $29.99 at Tipxy.com
A 750 ml bottle with an 18% ABV, the Rojo Clasico is bold and expressive, having a nose of sweet spices, cinnamon, cloves, and candied fruit. The palate is creamy and fresh, with just the faintest herbal undertone consisting of more bitter Mediterranean flavors.
"Rojo Clásico evokes herbaceous and medicinal aromas which harkens back to the atmosphere inside those local meeting places. The wine is made from Macabeo and Xarello grapes harvested from their own vineyards. After the first winter following harvest, sugar is added to the wine as well as the herb formula, resulting in a base vermouth which is then kept in 50-year old chestnut barrels used originally for transporting wine and adapted today for storing vermouth."
Padro & Co. Rojo Amargo Vermouth- $46.99 at Tipxy.com
From Tarragona, Spain with an 18% ABV, the Rojo Amargo has an awesome bottle and is truthfully described as "irresistibly vivacious," and the most "charismatic vermouth" of them all. With tasting notes of ripe orange peel, subtle cinnamon, and Balsamic cloves and dried apricots, The Rojo Amargo Vermouth is smooth and rounded with a delightfully bitter twist.
"Padro i Familia’s Rojo Amargo is their most charismatic vermouth, made using a double infusion of red vermouth and bitter herbs. Rojo Amargo starts with an initial infusion of mountain plants, with their small roots and highly aromatic flowers. The vermouth then rests for two years in chestnut barrels gently absorbing the aromas and, once the ageing process is complete, a second herb mixture is added consisting of a combination of plant bark and roots from the area around the winery, giving the vermouth even more character and its bitter tang."
Padro & Co. Reserva Especial Vermouth- $35.99 at Tipxy.com
A 750 ml bottle with an 18% ABV, the Reserva Especial Vermouth has bold, sweet, and intense flavors that pop in the mouth. Dried figs, green walnuts, and roasted hazelnuts add to the tasting notes, along with smooth notes of licorice and medicinal herbs. The Reserva Especial is sweet with a barely there hint of bitter molasses.
"Reserva Especial is created using a sweet Tarragona Clásico-style liqueur wine aged for 5 years in 7,000-litre oak vats. Padro adds a small amount of this wine to the solera wine in the final vermouth coupage together, with their special touch of vermouth herbs."
Padro & Co. Dorado Amargo Suave Vermouth- $31.99 at Tipxy.com
The classic 18% ABV vermouth bottle created in Spain, the Dorado Amargo Suave Vermouth incorporates a combination of aromas, including dry wild woodland herbs, along with a less prominent mineral note. The vermouth is bitter sweet balanced, with complexity, sophistication, balsamic sweetness and a hint of bitterness underneath.
"Dorado Amargo Suave captures the classic bitterness of artemisia, the traditional starting point in any vermouth, and gentian. Gentian is known to be one of the most bitter herbs in the world. These bitter forward herbs combined with a Macabeo based wine then aged for 9 months in lightly used chestnut barrels creates vermouth with a bitter-sweet sensations."
2. Hotel Starlino Vermouth
History of Hotel Starlino
Hotel Starlino doesn't just make vermouth, but they focus on drinks designed to whet the appetite before a meal. These appetizer drinks are called aperitif in French and aperitivo in Italian, and vermouth is a specific type of aperitif/aperitivo. The Starlino recipe was created by Denis Muni and Beppe Ronco, both of whom have extensive experience in the alcohol industry and have worked at Torino Distillati for more than 20 years. Their experience and creativity led to the Rosso Vermouth's unique flavors and spice.
Hotel Starlino Rosso Italian Vermouth- $29.99 at Tipxy.com
A 750 ml Red Italian Vermouth bottle, the Hotel Starlino Rosso Vermouth has a reddish brown and amber appearance, with fragile aromas of dried fruits, candied cherries, vanilla spice, and orange zest. The tasting notes include sweetness, richness, and vanilla, along with a round and full texture and mouthfeel. It comes from the Torino region of Italy, and has a 17% ABV.
The Rosso Vermouth is made with "natural fruits and herbs, including Orange, Vanilla and clove," and then aged in bourbon barrels, adding complexity and "a rich and smooth flavor."
Best Vermouth Cocktails
The classic cocktails to make with vermouth include the Manhattan, Martini, and Negroni, but vermouth can be a drink changing addition to many others as well.
Classic Negroni Recipe
- Fill a glass with ice, making sure there is no excess water
- Add one ounce of gin (we recommend the Freeland Spirits Dry Gin for a more alcoholic and drier cocktail, and the Belgian Clover Gin if not)
- Add one ounce of Campari
- Add what you've been waiting for, one ounce of a red vermouth. Hotel Starlino's Rosso Vermouth would be great here, as well as the Padro & Co. Rojo Clasico Vermouth.
- Stir, and then garnish with an orange slice or orange peel