Perhaps a bit misunderstood in the general zeitgeist, Vermouth is simply an aromatized and fortified wine that’s then tinkered with a bit more by adding various herbs and spices, most often imparting local flavors from the surrounding native botanicals.
Although there are various offshoots and subcategories, vermouth can be broken down into two categories: sweet & dry. Not all white vermouth is sweet, but most red vermouth is indeed sweet.
Originally thought of, and still widely drank as an aperitif (just pour it over rocks and enjoy with your dinner-faring amigos), Vermouth has become an MVP in cocktail creation, serving as the key ingredient in a myriad of classics such as the Martini and the Manhattan. But we maintain that the old school method of slinging some Vermouth into a glass chilled with ice is still a great way to get steeped in the essence and complexity of the drink. Vermouth has so much to it, it’s good to get to know it a bit before going cocktail crazy. Though we recommend that too.
Because of its easy sipping and crucial-to-cocktail status there are a quite a few Vermouth options to chose from, and though we tend to recommend Dolin as a standard for your vermouth needs, be it their Rouge in a Manhattan or their Dry in a Martini. However, that’s not to say there are not more interesting or appropriate Vermouth situations you should be getting into. For example, Lo-Fi Sweet Vermouth in a Young Martinez is a “must” at some point in your life!
Check out the Young Martinez cocktail recipe, only by Hi-Lo.
Mike is the wine and spirits program manager at Hi-Lo, doing the honorable work of tasting all the great stuff he can find, and then handing us his all-time favorites. Mike keeps it seasonal, of-the-moment, fresh and fun.