What is Vermouth?!

Updated: Jan 7, 2019

Vermouth is one of those Drinks on the Bar that has always been surrounded by mystery. Customers are not too clued up. Us Bartenders have limited knowledge too. In fact, a lot of bartenders (myself included at 18/19/20yo) thought Martini was a style of Drink. We had no idea that Martini was a Brand of Vermouth. And in fact the common question I get out on events a lot is, oh I don’t want that Cocktail if it’s got Martini in it, when in actual fact, 99% of Cocktails that have Martini in the name, refer to the type of glass used, NOT the Brand of Vermouth.

And the reason people “Don’t like Vermouth”. Because they’re probably drinking a gone off vermouth that’s been sitting on the back bar of a Pub for 6, 12, 18 months!


You see, Vermouth is a Fortified Wine. So your Martini, your Noilly Prat, your Lillet, those more common Vermouth's that people will probably have heard of are essentially Wines! And we all know what happens with Wine a few days after it’s been opened. Now yes, Vermouth's have been Fortified, that’s made stronger to you and me, traditionally with some form of Brandy, but yes, even at 15%, THEY ARE STILL GOING TO GO OFF!!! You need to keep your Vermouth in a Fridge or like me, my Cool Garage between November and March!


So, going back to “I Don’t Like Vermouth”, try some as soon as you’ve opened a bottle, then come and tell me you don’t like it!


Now, openly and honestly, I didn’t like Vermouth that much in my youth. I didn’t mind the Rosso’s and Blanco’s, but the Dry’s and Extra Dry’s, nope I didn’t have the palate for that. Yes, I’m talking Martini and Cinzano. But Lillet changed all that for me in the mid 00s. I tried a Lillet and thought, oooo, you know what, that’s okay! Slightly softer, kind of more luxurious in texture.


BUY SOME VERMOUTH!!


Then in 2017, Lustau were at Imbibe Live and these tasters of Lustau Blanco & Rojo Vermut were thrust in my face. Blind of course, I had no idea what I was tasting until after. But I bloomin LOVED it. I tried with Lemonade first, nice, then they served both up with Fever Tree Tonic. WOW. I was hooked.


What is the difference, between Lustau and Martini for example?!



Well, as I say, a Traditional Vermouth is a White or Red Wine, fortified with Brandy, then flavoured with Aromatic Herbs and Spices. Now that I’ve told you that, perhaps you can now comprehend, that when Martini is £6-£8 a bottle, you aren’t going to get a really decent Wine, nor Brandy, nor the love and attention involved in production. Martini does have its fans, and rightly so, its okay. I don’t dislike it. But all’s I’m saying, now imagine a Vermouth that retails at £15-£20 a bottle and you can instantly recognise there is going to be way more Quality in the drink.


Going back to Lustau, it is a Sherry Based Vermouth. The Rojo, my favvy, is a blend of Amontillado Sherry & Pedro Ximenez, so you have that Nutty Sherry, balanced with a Sweeter Sherry, fortified, then aromatised & macerated with Orange Peel, Wormwood, Coriander, Gentian and loads of other Fruits and Spices.



How should you drink Vermouth?!


Well that’s up to you. That’s what raised a few eyebrows in my Video. I first tried Lustau with plain Fever Tree Tonic, however, I’ve since experimented with other Tonics and my 2 out and out Favourite serves;

(Click Links above to Purchase Tonics)


Open and honestly, Martini Rosso wise…trying both Martini & Lustau with the Double Dutch Cranberry, there is a very clear out and out winner. It is amazingly quaffable. We had a bottle of Lustau on Christmas Day alone.


However, while I love the Lustau with Franklins Rhubarb Tonic, there isn’t the massive gulf in taste with Martini Rosso. Its pretty decent. Probably because Martini is more Bitter and so is the Tonic. Double Dutch’s Cranberry Tonic is not a Bitter, Quinine heavy Tonic. That’s why the Lustau is hands down the Better Drink.


So for me, over the next few weeks, I’m going to gradually experiment with the Lustau Blanco and grab a bottle of Martini Bianco then compare Tonic Serves.


As a drinks fan, Vermouth & Tonic is deffo going to be more on my radar in 2019. And actually, I’m going to sneak it in on Events too. Add it in to my Gin & Tonic lists, and my Gin Tastings.


It could get interesting!!

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