(n.) A fortified aromatized wine, vermouth is made by adding a neutral grain spirit to a low-alcohol wine, then infusing it with spices, roots and herbs before bottling. It generally comes in two styles, sweet (red) and dry, though there are other versions that are less common, such as white, rosé or golden. Manufacturers tend to keep their herb and spice blends a proprietary secret, but common additions include citrus peel, coriander, juniper, ginger, cloves and cinnamon, among others. The finished product is bottled at 16 to 18-percent ABV.
What we recognize as vermouth likely originated in Italy in the late-18th century as a medicinal tonic. The name comes from the German word for wormwood, “wermut,” which was a common ingredient before the banning of absinthe. Sweet vermouth came first, from Antonio Benedetto Carpano in Turin, Italy, in 1786. Less than 20 years later, Joseph Noilly would introduce the dry version in France.
Commonly used as a mixer for many famous cocktails (the Martini, the Manhattan), in European cultures, it is also consumed as an aperitif. Once dominated by big brands such as Martini & Rossi and Noilly Prat, of late vermouth has been getting the artisanal treatment too, with many smaller labels, such as Carpano Antica and Mauro Vergano, and new craft producers, such as Uncouth Vermouth becoming more common on bar shelves.