What is Vermouth

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Vermouth is a traditional fortified wine made with a range of interesting herbs that also possess some health benefits for those who drink it regularly.

What is Vermouth?

Vermouth is an aromatic wine fortified with botanical herbs, roots, and flowers. The word ‘vermouth’ is the French interpretation of the German word, ‘Wermut’, which stands for herb. The taste of this alcohol varies greatly according to the chosen infusion, but some of the most common flavors are ginger, cinnamon, citrus peel, and juniper. Slightly stronger than other fortified wines, vermouth tends to range between 16% and 18% ABV.

Sweet vermouth originated in Italy and was used medicinally or consumed as a dessert wine. Dry vermouth, also known as ‘white vermouth’, developed in France during the 18th century as a paler and drier alternative to the sweet version. Both are added to cocktails, such as Martinis and Manhattans.

A glass of juice with slices of citrus fruit, ice cube, blurry images of bowl of olive and cut fruits at the back.

Cool and refreshing drink. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Types

There are many different varieties of vermouth, they include the following:

  • Torino: This is a traditional variety produced in the Torino region of Italy. Begun in the 1800’s, these wines often have a sweet and spicy flavor.
  • Amaro: This is a bitter Torino-style wine in which bitters are added to the production process, along with extra sugar for balance.
  • Chinato: A complex flavored regional style made in northwest Italy, often mixed with a diverse range of herbs.
  • Spanish vermouth: This variety is made in Spain in the traditional Italian style.
  • Marseilles dry: This is an extremely dry variety from the Marseilles region of France that is often used in cooking. 

Nutrition

Calories in one glass of this potent liquor can vary from approximately 30 calories to 150 calories, with the sweeter types being at the higher end of the spectrum. Each serving contains 1-2% carbohydrates.

Benefits

Due to the wide range of herbs used in the production, there are a number of potential health benefits that this beverage can offer when drunk in moderation. These include the following:

  • Aiding in digestion
  • Reducing stress
  • Improving the appetite
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Protecting the immune system

How to Make?

The process to make vermouth wine is quite simple. It involves the following steps:

A glass of juice with slices of citrus fruit, ice cube, blurry images of bowl of olive and cut fruits at the back.

Homemade Vermouth Recipe

Enjoy the delicate balance of rich, spicy, sweet, and bitter flavors of the drink!
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Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Italian, Spanish
Keyword: Vermouth
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 750 milliliters
Author: Ishani Bose

Ingredients

  • 3.75 cups of white wine (divided)
  • 1 tsp of dried chamomile
  • 1 tsp of dried lavender
  • 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 0.25 tsp of wormwood leaf
  • 0.25 cup of sugar
  • 0.25 cup of boiling water
  • 0.5 cup of sweet Indian sherry
  • 0.5 cup of brandy

Instructions

  • Take an orange and cut it into half. Use one half to zest and set aside the other half for later use. 
  • Now take a cup of wine and pour it into a pot, while you set the rest aside. To this, add all the orange zest, dried chamomile, cardamom, cinnamon stick, dried lavender, star anise, and wormwood and let it cook on medium heat till it comes to a boil for about 5 minutes. Now, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Once done, remove it from the heat and keep it aside. Strain out the solids and pour the liquid in the pot. 
  • Meanwhile, in a separate pot, pour in the sugar and let it caramelize on medium heat. Once the sugar begins to melt, (that is melt into a caramel-colored liquid) turn it off and allow the caramelized sugar to cool. 
  • Allow the water to boil in a saucepan or tea kettle. Pour 1/4 cup of the water in a cup and add it to the caramelized sugar and stir. 
  • To the herb-infused wine, add the remaining wine and bring it to a boil. Thereafter, pour it slowly into the pot of caramelized sugar syrup and stir it frequently to perfectly blend them. Add sherry and brandy to the mixture and let it cool. Once done, pour it into a bottle and store it in the refrigerator. 

Sweet vs Dry Vermouth

  • Origin: Sweet vermouth originated in Italy, whereas the dry type originated in France.
  • Color: Dry vermouth is both drier and paler in color than the sweet varieties.
  • Usage: Sweet types are more often used medicinally.
  • Cocktails: Both types are used in cocktails such as martinis.

How to Store?

Like other red wines, store unopened bottles of this alcohol in a cool, dark place.

  • Once opened, however, keep this alcohol in the refrigerator.
  • If possible, transfer a half-full bottle to a smaller, sealable bottle in order to avoid excessive oxidation and preserve its aroma.
  • It is recommended that you consume an opened bottle within one to two months to avoid souring.

Uses

  • This alcohol is drunk primarily as an aperitif and in cocktails.
  • It also makes for an excellent dessert wine.
  • It can be used in cooking and pairs particularly well with fish recipes.

Word of Caution: When consumed in excess, as with any alcohol, vermouth can alter the body’s sugar levels and cause intoxication. Be wary of wormwood-infused versions of the beverage, as the herb has highly adverse effects on some people. Consume this alcohol in moderation to avoid long-term damage to the liver and other aspects of your overall health.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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