Vermouth is a fortified wine that is flavored with a variety of herbs and spices. It is traditionally made in two major styles: dry (white) vermouth and sweet (red) vermouth. Dry vermouth, originating in France, is famously used to make martinis and is dry and floral. Sweet vermouth usually comes from Italy, is sweet, spiced, and herbal. Dry and sweet vermouths are also enjoyed as an aperitif. Since vermouth is a fortified wine, it is slightly high in alcohol when compared to non-fortified wine.
Dry vs. Sweet Vermouth
Dry vermouth is also known as white vermouth or French vermouth. It is often clear or very pale yellow in color. The name “dry” signifies its flavor profile and it often contains just 5 per cent sugar. Its blend of botanicals pairs well with gin to make classic martinis.
Sweet vermouth is also known as red vermouth or Italian vermouth thanks to its color and origin. It has a significantly sweeter profile than dry vermouth and can include up to 15 percent sugar. While it is sweet, it’s not as intense as sweet liqueurs like amaretto. Sweet vermouth can also have a notable vanilla aroma mixed with notes of spice and herbs, making it a perfect pair with dark spirits like whiskey and brandy. Although it is most common to see red sweet vermouth, a white version—labeled as bianco or blanc—is also produced.
Derived from ancient Roman recipes, Antonio Benedetto Carpano of Turin, Italy made the first sweet vermouth in 1786. Dry vermouth came along in 1813 and was created by Joseph Noilly of France. Both of these names can still be found on two of the most popular brands of vermouth produced today. Vermouth was originally used as a medicinal tonic, but its intoxicating qualities quickly turned it into a favorite aperitif.
These producers consistently produce high-quality vermouth:
- Martini & Rossi
- Noilly Prat
- Punt e Mes