Martini and the Manhattan, vermouth is a must-have for any well-stocked home bar. Taking its name from the German word “Wermut,” meaning wormwood, vermouth is an aromatic fortified wine flavored with herbs, roots, bark, flowers and other botanicals. It comes in two basic styles: sweet and dry, each with different cocktail uses.
- Sweet Vermouth (aka Italian vermouth, red vermouth, vermouth rosso) The earliest commercial vermouths came out of late 18th Century Italy (Martini & Rossi was a famous maker of the time who's still a giant in the market today), and for that reason any sweet, red vermouth made in this tradition now (regardless of its country of origin) is known as “Italian vermouth." Cocktail Uses: Manhattans, Rob Roys, Negronis, Bronxes, Americanos, and others
- Dry Vermouth (aka French vermouth, white vermouth, vermouth secco) In the early 19th Century, French winemaker, Joseph Noilly, arrived on the scene with his own style of vermouth, which was pale in color and much drier. Noilly Prat is still a leading maker of this style of aromatic fortified wine, which is still referred to as “French vermouth” regardless of where it was made. Cocktail Uses: Martinis, Gibsons, Algonquins, Bronxes, and others
Wet or Dry Martinis: Just How Much Vermouth Should You Pour? When people talk about “wet” or “dry” Martinis, they’re referring to the amount of vermouth added to the mix. And this amount has long been the subject of barroom debate. Early Martinis were definitely on the wetter side (recipes from the 1900s call for equal parts vermouth and gin!). On the other end of the spectrum, Winston Churchill preferred his drinks considerably drier. The politician was famously said to have made his Martinis by pouring some gin into a cocktail pitcher and “glancing briefly at a bottle of vermouth” across the room. Bottom line? It's all a matter of taste. Related: Cocktail Basics: All About Bitters (Images: Nora Maynard) -Nora