Join me for a in-depth Interview with Martini-Rossi Brand Ambassador Kris Bahamondes as we learn more about one of Italy’s top drinks. A drink with a lot of history, Vermouth has grown in popularity amongst hipsters, mixologists and wine enthusiasts alike. In a Negroni or another fabulous cocktail Vermouth is versatile and exciting.
For those who may not know what exactly Vermouth is, how would you explain it to them?
Vermouth, at its core, is wine to which Vermouth makers will add Alcohol, Sugar and Herbs. The best way to remember what Vermouth is composed of, is the acronym WASH: Wine, Alcohol, Sugar and Herbs. If people who read this only remember one thing about Vermouth, they should remember it’s primarily wine. As such, it should be treated like a wine and kept in the fridge once you open it. An open bottle of Vermouth left on the bar shelves or in your kitchen cabinet will spoil quickly if kept at room temperature. Vermouth is delicious when it’s fresh and it’s inexpensive. So, if you don’t have a fresh bottle, you might want to toss what you have and pickup a fresh one before trying out some Vermouth recipes.
What are the different types of Vermouth and what makes them different?
There are many types and styles of Vermouth – too many to discuss here in totality. The first styles of Vermouth were based on where they were created. They were Italian Vermouth and French Vermouth, what we know today as Sweet (Italian Vermouth) and Dry (French Vermouth). An example of sweet Vermouth is Martini Rosso (from Torino and Piemonte) and an example of dry vermouth is Noilly-Prat (From Marseillan, France).
At the time, these countries and regions (Torino in Italy and Chambery in France) were making only one style of Vermouth. As the Vermouth market began to grow and evolve, these styles began being reproduced across both countries and the rest of the world. Other styles of Vermouth include Bianco or white style Vermouth, Rosato or rose, Americano which is a bit more bitter. The biggest difference between these styles will be the Alcohol content, Sugar content and Herbs or botanicals which make up the flavours of the Vermouth. Sugar content in Vermouth can range from the low teens to over 100 G/L in certain styles so they really do all behave differently when you drink or mix them.
Where in Italy is Vermouth well known and what drinks is it known for?
Torino and the Piemonte region are known for some of the best Vermouth in Italy. This is where the Vermouths that gained global acclaim were made, and this is where MARTINI is from. One of the most famous Vermouth cocktails is named after the city, the Milano-Torino. The cocktail is comprised of Italian bitter from Milan and MARTINI sweet Vermouth or Rosso from Torino. This cocktail eventually gave life to the most iconic vermouth cocktails: The Americano, The Negroni and the Sbagliato.
What is the history of Vermouth?
The history of Vermouth is the history of aromatized wine, or wine to which herbs and spices were added. There are records and chemical tests of pre-AD vessels containing traces of aromatized wine. Historical evidence show these wines were used in celebratory and sacred ceremonies, as well as consumed in everyday life for medicinal purposes, in Ancient China and the Middle East (the spice route).
Aromatized wine consisted of the herbs and spices traded along the spice routes as well as the wines from different regions. There were blends that were simple, and others that used only the rarest blends of ingredients and were reserved for royalty. By the 19th century, aromatized wines became more refined and were being enjoyed as a beverage, not a medicine. Vermouth evolved out of Aromatized wine and was made famous in the Kingdom of Savoy (Chambery and Torino) in the mid 16th century. Vermouth is now made all over the world in many countries producing totally unique styles all delicious in their own way.
Where does the name Vermouth come from?
The name Vermouth comes from the Austrian word for wormwood, or Vermut. Wormwood is a key required ingredient in Vermouth making according to E.U. standards.
What type of taste does Vermouth have?
Taste can vary wildly between styles of vermouth. Dry vermouth can be light bodied, acidic, and bitter. Additional flavours could include herbal notes, citrus zest and florality. Bianco Vermouth is generally medium bodied and moderately sweet, and some will be bitter with warm vanilla notes. Sweet Vermouth will be full bodied and fairly sweet, and can have warm stewed fruit notes, caramel, vanilla and other warm spice flavours. There can also be many herbal notes in the mix. The best way to know a Vermouth is to try it. Try it neat, on ice and with a bit of soda water to lengthen it. Add an orange zest and, all of the sudden, you’ve got something.
If someone has never tried Vermouth, what other things might they like to eat/drink that could help move them into liking Vermouth?
Vermouth goes great with salty bites. Take your Vermouth and mix it with loads of ice and some sparkling water or soda water. Stir it up. If it’s too light, add a bit more Vermouth. Take a bite of an olive or some cured meats or good cheese and then go back for a sip. The combination of the sweet/bitter/herbal vermouth and the salty bites is a match made in heaven.
What taste profile does Vermouth help bring to a cocktail?
Vermouth can add delicious bitter, warm or even savoury flavour profiles to a cocktail. It really does depend on which Vermouth you use and how you mix it.
Is there anything else about Vermouth that is exciting to learn about?
I’ve never found a Vermouth cocktail I didn’t like – and I’ve tried A LOT of drinks. They’re almost all delicious and refreshing. Pickup a bottle of Vermouth and explore the world of Vermouth cocktails. There’s bound to be one for everyone.
Try Vermouth for yourself!
- 1 part Campari
- 1 part Red Vermouth
- 1 part Sparkling Wine
Pour Campari and Vermouth into a rocks glass with ice. Top with Sparkling Wine and garnish with a slice of orange.