A bottle of Noilly Prat dry vermouth

Vermouth (UK: /ˈvɜrməθ/;[1] US: /vərˈmuːθ/) is a fortified wine flavored with various dry ingredients. The modern versions of the beverage were first produced around the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Italy and France. Vermouth was consumed as a medicinal libation until the latter 19th century when it became an important ingredient in many of the first classic cocktails, such as the martini.

Grape wine is used as the base ingredient for vermouth. Each manufacturer adds additional alcohol and a proprietary mixture of dry ingredients, consisting of aromatic herbs, roots, and barks, to the base wine, which is then bottled and sold. Two main types of vermouth, sweet and dry, are produced, and it comes in various colors, but primarily pale or red. In addition to being consumed as a drink or cocktail ingredient, vermouth is sometimes used as a substitute for white wine in cooking. French and Italian companies produce most of the vermouth consumed throughout the world.


Etymology and history

The name "vermouth" comes from the German word Wermut for wormwood that has been used as an ingredient in the drink over its history. Fortified wines containing wormwood as a principal ingredient existed in Germany around the 16th century. An Italian merchant, named D'Alessio, around the same time began producing a similar product in Piedmont as a "wormwood wine." By the mid-17th century, the drink was popular in England under the name "vermouth" which has been the common name for the beverage until the present day.[2][3]

Consumption of wines fortified with herbs and/or roots is believed to have begun in ancient Greece around 400 BC. The extra ingredients were added to wine to make it a medicinal drink, but may have also had the purpose of masking foul odors and flavors as the wine spoiled over time. A popular ingredient was wormwood, based on the belief that it was effective at treating stomach disorders and intestinal parasites. D'Alessio's version of the libation contained other botanical ingredients in addition to wormwood. Competing brands developed shortly thereafter in eastern and southeastern France contained their own, proprietary mix of ingredients, including herbs, roots, and spices.[2][3][4]

Over time, two distinct versions of vermouth became established, one pale, dry, and bitter, and the other red and sweeter. Merchant Antonio Benedetto Carpano introduced the first sweet vermouth in 1786 in Turin, Italy. The drink reportedly quickly became popular with the royal court of Turin.[3][4][5][6] Around 1800 to 1813, the first pale, dry vermouth was produced in France by Joseph Noilly.[3][4][5] However, not all pale vermouths produced over time have been dry, and not all red vermouths have been sweet.[4]

A martini cocktail with its mixers including a pale, dry vermouth (left) and gin (right, in this case, using Gordon's Gin) The (optional) olive is already in the glass.

The popularity of vermouth as a medicinal liquor waned by end of the 19th century, but the advent of cocktails found a new use for the drink. People found that vermouth was the ideal mixer for many cocktails, including the martini (beginning in the 1860s) and the Manhattan (beginning around 1874). In addition, the popular Vermouth Cocktail, first appearing in 1869, consisted of chilled vermouth and a twist of lemon peel with the occasional addition of small amounts of bitters or maraschino. The popularity of vermouth-heavy cocktails, often using twice as much vermouth as gin or whiskey, continued through the 1880s and 1890s. Although the amount of vermouth used in cocktail recipes has somewhat declined, it is still used today as an ingredient in many popular cocktails, and for that reason demand for the beverage has remained fairly steady through the 20th and into the 21st centuries.[4][7]

Production, ingredients, and flavors

Several wine grapes, including Clairette blanche, Piquepoul, Catarratto and Trebbiano, are generally used as the base ingredients for vermouths. From these grapes, a low-alcohol white wine is produced by vermouth manufacturers. The wine may be aged for a short while before the addition of other ingredients. For sweet vermouths, sugar syrup is added before the wine is fortified with extra alcohol. The added alcohol is usually grape spirit, but may also come from vegetable sources such as sugar beets. The wine is then placed in large barrels or tanks to which the dry ingredients have already been added. The mixture is stirred off-and-on until the dry ingredients have been absorbed and the drink is ready for bottling. Caramel color is added to make red vermouths. Most vermouths are bottled at 17% ABV, as compared with the 9–12% ABV of most unfortified wines.[4][8][9]

Dry ingredients often used in vermouths include cloves, cinnamon, quinine, citrus peel, cardamom, marjoram, chamomile, coriander, juniper, hyssop, and ginger. The prohibition of wormwood as a drink ingredient in the early 20th century in some countries sharply reduced its use in vermouth, but small amounts of the herb are still sometimes included. Vermouth brand recipes vary, with most manufacturers marketing their own unique flavor and version of the beverage.[4][5] Vermouth manufacturers keep their recipes for the drink secret.[6]

Sweet vermouths usually contain 10–15% sugar. The sugar content in dry vermouths generally does not exceed 4%. Dry vermouths usually are lighter in body than sweet vermouths.[6]

In addition to pale and red vermouths, there exists golden and rosé versions, but these are not as internationally popular. The region of Chambéry in France has received an appellation d'origine contrôlée for its vermouths, which include a strawberry-flavored version called Chambéryzette.[10][11] Lillet and Dubonnet are fortified wines similar to vermouth, but are usually considered separate products.[10][12]

The term "Italian vermouth" is often used to refer to red-colored, mildly bitter, and slightly sweet vermouths. These types of vermouths have also been called "rosso."[4] The label "French vermouth" generally refers to pale, dry vermouths that are bitterer than sweet vermouths. The extra bitterness is often obtained by using nutmeg and/or bitter orange peel in the drink recipe.[4] Bianco is a name given to a type of pale, sweeter vermouth.[4]

According to Stuart Walton and Brian Glover, vermouth "is as far removed from the natural produce of the vine as it is possible for a fortified wine to get."[2] They add that there is no special connoisseurship of vermouth, as it is an "everyday product made to a consistent and unchanging recipe by each manufacturer."[2]

Modern use


Most cocktails using vermouth, and when drinking vermouth by itself, are apéritifs, although sometimes drunk as a digestif. Vermouth is used as an ingredient in many different cocktails, as people found it ideal for lowering the alcohol content of cocktails with strong spirits as their base, for providing a pleasant herbal flavor and aroma, and for accentuating the flavors in the base liquor. As previously stated, vermouth is an ingredient in the martini, one of the most popular and well-known cocktails. At first, martinis used sweet vermouth. Around 1904, however, dryer French vermouths began to be used in the cocktail. The term "dry martini" originally meant using a dryer vermouth as a mixer, not using less vermouth, as the term is used today.[9][13][14]

A Manhattan cocktail with its components, including Martini & Rossi Rosso (taller bottle at right) as the vermouth ingredient.

Sharon Tyler Herbst's book, The Ultimate A-To-Z Bar Guide, lists 112 cocktails using dry vermouth and 82 containing sweet vermouth.[15] Cocktails using either dry or sweet vermouth or both include the Americano,[16] Bronx,[17] Gibson,[18] Manhattan,[19] Negroni,[20] Rob Roy,[21] and Rose.[22] Variations of cocktail recipes using equal portions of dry and sweet vermouths are called perfect, as in a Perfect Manhattan.[3]

The popularity of vermouth in the United States and Great Britain has declined since the mid-20th century, but is still used in those countries in many classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, albeit in smaller amounts. The drink is more popular in other parts of Europe, such as Italy and France, where it is often consumed by itself as an apéritif.[4]


Vermouth can be used as a substitute for white wine in food recipes.[11] The herbs in dry vermouth reportedly make it an attractive ingredient in sauces for fish dishes or as a marinade for other meats, including pork and chicken.[8][23][24]

Because vermouth is fortified, an opened bottle will not sour as quickly as white wine. Opened vermouth, however, will gradually deteriorate over time. Gourmands recommend that opened bottles of vermouth be consumed within one to three months and should be kept refrigerated to slow oxidation.[4][9]

Major brands

The Carpano family continues to operate as a producer of vermouth. Their Punt e Mes is a deep red vermouth with sweet and bitter flavors. The company also produces the Antica Formula brand, a bitter, fuller-flavored version of vermouth.[4][9][12][25] Other Italian producers are Riccadonna, Boissiere, Gallo, and Gancia.[4][12][26]

The Cinzano family began production in 1816 in Turin. Their Bianco product is a sweet, pale vermouth.[4][27] Other offerings from Cinzano include a sweet Rouge and a pale Extra Dry.[12] Also based in Turin is Martini & Rossi, the top-selling international brand of vermouth, which started in 1863 and produces both dry and sweet vermouths, but is most known for its Rosso.[4][28][29] Cinzano and Martini & Rossi also produce rose′ vermouths, which are mainly distributed in Italy and France.[4][9]

Noilly Prat, based in southern France, is primarily known for its dry, pale vermouths, but also produces a sweeter version. The company was founded by Joseph Noilly in 1813. By 1855, Joseph's son, Louis, and his brother-in-law, Claudius Prat, were producing Noilly Prat dry vermouth in Marseillan, Hérault.[4][9][27] Another French producer is Dolin, known for lighter vermouths.[4][9][11]

Vya, established in 1999, is an American vermouth produced in Madera County, California. Vya's drink is made from orange muscat grapes combined with port wine and dry ingredients to make a rich, spicy vermouth.[4] Two other California vermouth producers include Sutton Cellars and King Eider.[14]

Imbue, established in 2010, is an American vermouth produced in Portland, Oregon. Imbue's recipe is made from Pinot gris grapes and Eau de vie brandy.


  1. ^ Jones, Daniel; Gimson, A. C. (1977). Everyman's English Pronouncing Dictionary (14 ed.). London: J.M. Dent & Sons. 
  2. ^ a b c d Walton and Glover, p. 496
  3. ^ a b c d e Herbst, p. 349
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Clarke, Paul (15 August 2008). "The Truth About Vermouth: The secret ingredient in today's top cocktails remains misunderstood" (Newspaper article). San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c Walton and Glover, p. 497
  6. ^ a b c "Vermouth". Moscow Times Bar Guide. Sanoma. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Walton and Glover, p. 498; Krader, pp. 120, 129; Herbst, pp. 231, 235–236
  8. ^ a b Walton and Glover, p. 499
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Bettridge, Jack (30 April 2011), "Italy's Gift to Bartenders", Wine Spectator: 27 
  10. ^ a b Walton and Glover, pp. 498–499
  11. ^ a b c Ward, Bill (10 March 2010). "Beyond martinis, vermouth can shine" (Newspaper article). Star Tribune. Michael J. Klingensmith. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c d Viera, Lauren (18 May 2011). "The straight truth about vermouth" (Newspaper article). Chicago Tribune. Tony W. Hunter.,0,1336345.story. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  13. ^ Walton and Glover, pp. 496, 499; Krader, p. 120
  14. ^ a b Cole, Katherine (18 January 2011). "Two local producers help boost vermouth's revival" (Newspaper article). The Oregonian. Advance Publications. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  15. ^ Herbst, pp. 378–380
  16. ^ Herbst, pp. 62–63
  17. ^ Krader, p. 129 states this cocktail appeared around 1934
  18. ^ Herbst, p. 237
  19. ^ Krader, p. 129
  20. ^ Krader, p. 123 states that this cocktail originated around 1900
  21. ^ Herbst, p. 291
  22. ^ Herbst, p. 293
  23. ^ Cicero, Linda (5 January 2010). "Recipes: Roast Pork with Vermouth and Olives and Bishop's Bread" (Newspaper article). Seattle Times. Frank A. Blethen. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  24. ^ Miami Herald, "Dinner in minutes: Roasted chicken flavored with sage and vermouth", 24 April 2002
  25. ^ Walton and Glover, pp. 497, 499
  26. ^ Walton and Glover, p. 498
  27. ^ a b Walton and Glover, pp. 497–498
  28. ^ Walton and Glover, pp. 496, 498
  29. ^ According to Campaign, (14 May 2010), p. 8, "The Week: Advertising News – Smirnoff is Power's top drink", in 2010 Martini was ranked fourth on the list of leading global drinks brands.


  • Herbst, Sharon Tyler; Ron Herbst (1998). The Ultimate A-To-Z Bar Guide. New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 0-7679-0197-5 (pbk.). 
  • Krader, Kate (Editor) (2009). Cocktails '09. New York: Food & Wine Books, American Express Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60320-811-6. 
  • Walton, Stuart; Brian Glover (1998). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Wine, Beer, Spirits & Liqueurs. London: Lorenz Books. ISBN 0-7548-0334-1. 

Further information

  • Amerine, Maynard Andrew; University of California (System), Division of Agricultural Sciences (1974). Vermouth: An Annotated Bibliography. ANR Publications. ISBN 9780931876202. 
  • Rizzo, Francesco (1955) (in Italian). La fabbricazione del vermouth. Edizioni Agricole. 
  • Strucchi, Arnaldo (1907) (in Italian). Il vermouth di Torino: monografia, con 18 incisioni e 12 tavole fototipiche. Tip. e Litografia C. Cassone. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • vermouth — ou vermout [ vɛrmut ] n. m. • 1795 vermouth; all. Wermut « absinthe » ♦ Apéritif à base de vin aromatisé de plantes amères et toniques (absinthe, gentiane, écorce d oranges, quinquina, genièvre). Vermouth blanc, rouge. ♢ Verre de vermouth. « Il… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • vermouth — 1806, from Fr. vermouth, from Ger. Wermuth wormwood, from M.H.G. wermuot, from O.H.G. wermuota (see WORMWOOD (Cf. wormwood)), name of the aromatic herb formerly used in the flavoring of the liqueur …   Etymology dictionary

  • Vermouth —   [ver muːt, französisch], v. a. für französische und italienische Erzeugnisse gebräuchliche Bezeichnung für Wermutwein …   Universal-Lexikon

  • vermouth — s.n. v. vermut. Trimis de LauraGellner, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DN …   Dicționar Român

  • vermouth — the drink, is normally pronounced with the stress on the first syllable in BrE, and with the stress on the second syllable (to rhyme with tooth) in AmE …   Modern English usage

  • vermouth — ► NOUN ▪ a red or white wine flavoured with aromatic herbs. ORIGIN French vermout, from German Wermut wormwood …   English terms dictionary

  • vermouth — [vər mo͞oth′] n. [Fr vermout < Ger wermut,WORMWOOD] a sweet or dry, white fortified wine flavored with aromatic herbs, used in cocktails and as an aperitif …   English World dictionary

  • Vermouth — Une bouteille de Vermouth Le vermouth est un apéritif à base de vin, obtenu par addition de sucre ou de mistelle (mélange de moût de raisin et d alcool), d alcool neutre et aromatisé par une infusion de nombreuses plantes aromatiques. Il titre… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • vermouth — /veuhr moohth /, n. an aromatized white wine in which herbs, roots, barks, bitters, and other flavorings have been steeped. [1800 10; < F (now vermout) < G Wermuth (now Wermut) absinthe, WORMWOOD] * * * ▪ alcoholic beverage  wine based fortified… …   Universalium

  • vermouth — vèr·mouth s.m.inv. AD vino liquoroso ad alta gradazione alcolica aromatizzato con erbe e droghe, che si beve spec. come aperitivo ed entra nella composizione di molti cocktail: vermouth bianco, rosso, rosé; offrire, bere un vermouth, un bicchiere …   Dizionario italiano

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