The best way to describe vermouth is to call it an aromatized wine. What that means is that sugar, herbs, roots, flowers, and spices have been added to give it the flavor we all know and love without changing its alcohol content, which usually falls between 15 and 19 percent.

Although vermouthís name is derived from the German word wermut, meaning wormwood, it is actually Italian in origin. The versatile wine has been around for several hundred years and has quite an interesting history. In Italy during the 1700s, aromatized wines were being created through newly discovered techniques. The liquor was of a low quality, so distillers tried to mask the almost medicinal taste by adding herbs. These herbs, including coriander, nutmeg, marjoram, and cinnamon, were considered to be medicinal themselves, so the sweet drink was often sold as a tonic.

It was in the late 1700s that vermouth was first referenced as the drinkís name. Antonio Benedetto Carpano dubbed the wine vermouth after being inspired by a German wine that got its flavor from wormwood. While Italy is still considered to be the main location for vermouth production, the techniques used to create the wine spread to areas in France, such as Herault and Chambery. In fact, credit goes to the French for creating dry vermouth during the early 1800s.

Today there are several varieties of vermouth available, making them the perfect ingredient in many drink recipes.

  • Dry Vermouth - This variety is often seen as an ingredient in martinis. It works well because its lack of sugar gives it a wonderfully bitter taste.
  • Sweet Vermouth - This most well-known and popular variety is usually found under the Martini & Rossi label. As the name suggests, it has a much sweeter taste than its dry counterpart.
  • Sweet White Vermouth/Bianco - It is often used to stimulate the appetite prior to lunch and/or dinner. It has a soft taste and is much like sweet red vermouth, although it is sweeter.
  • Sweet Red Vermouth/Rosso - This type of vermouth does not get its color from red wine. Instead, caramel gives it not only a sweet flavor, but also its signature red color. It isnít as sweet as sweet red vermouth, but is still a popular choice.
  • Punt e mes - This type, which translates to mean point and a half in honor of a distilleryís jump in stock prices, is of the Italian variety. Its flavor is distinct, strong, and a perfect martini ingredient.

Vermouth might be considered a versatile ingredient to many drink recipes, but its use doesnít end there. It also lends a wonderful, distinct flavor to many food recipes, as well. Should you find that a recipe contains white wine, but you donít have any on hand, dry vermouth makes the perfect substitute. In addition, some fruit-based confections and desserts can really be punched up a notch by using sweet vermouth. Vermouth also goes well served alongside some of your favorite dishes.

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