Vermouth. Really. And How This World of Ours can be Made Better.

Pestilence, mass shootings, war, large-scale lootings of national economies.

Sure, things look bad and it is sometimes hard to see meaning and hope in this world of ours.

On the other hand, the rise in craft breweries, the wealth of good wines, and the re-establishment of cocktails shows that there is a loving and benevolent God.

But we still need to be aware of ongoing problems. The American attitude toward vermouth, for instance. In our nation, we know little about vermouth, and what little we think know is wrong and ruinous of some of the greatest cocktails in the history of the known universe.

First, a comment about the Martini: a Martini is gin mixed with vermouth (many variants use other aperitif), often with bitters. You use vodka instead, and you have a Vodka Martini. You don’t use any vermouth and you have gin (or vodka) in a cocktail (or Martini) glass. I don’t make the rules.

So, what is an aperitif? Defined most simply, an aperitif is a before-dinner drink designed to stimulate appetite, but more specifically this is a class of alcoholic beverages known as fortified wines, of which vermouth is the most-widely known, but the category also includes such products as Lillet Blanc and Rouge, Dubonet Blanc and Rouge, Cocchi Americano, Aperol and Campari, and sherries, to name a few.

Buck up. Get some courage. Drink vermouth, on ice, with a twist. Really, Europeans do it all the time, or they mix it with some club soda.

The main reason why we dismiss vermouth or other aperitifs is that these have a relatively low alcohol by percent beverage than liquor, and vermouth, at around 18%, is much closer to its source beverage wine (9%-15%) than to distilled liquor. Do you enjoy a glass of wine from an opened bottle that has been sitting on your kitchen counter for a few days?  No. No, you don’t. The 18% alcohol by volume of vermouth makes it a bit more resistant to oxidation, but an opened bottle left out for even a mere week, will start tasting weird. Vermouth takes longer to oxidize than regular wine, but oxidize it will, turning darker and getting a rather unpleasant woody taste, and this is the condition of the vast majority of vermouth in America, and even at bars.

And, of course, there are better and worse vermouth, and you shouldn’t be shocked to find out that that giant bottle of vermouth that you bought for only two dollars more than the small bottle of the same brand isn’t really a bargain, unless you drink a lot of the stuff, fast. If you are buying the vermouth for your nightly Martini, probably buy the small bottle. And keep it in the damn fridge.

But even better, buy better vermouth.

For my money (and yes, it costs more), Quady Vya Extra Dry Vermouth is a premium go-to; made by a relatively small vineyard in California, this vermouth actually reveals the fruit of the vine along with a well-balanced mix of infused botanicals, or as the producer says, “Made in California’s San Joaquin Valley from a blend of dry white wine that includes Orange Muscat, Vya Extra Dry is carefully hand infused at Quady Winery with a selection of over fifteen dried herbs.” Quady has a nice site, including a decent blog (

And then, of course, there is sweet vermouth, an essential ingredient of that other pillar of the cocktail world, the Manhattan.

But that is for another time. I need an aperitif.

Bottle of Antica Carpano, Vya Extra Dry, Dolin, Cinzano Sweet, with a Martini, caption: Best, Better, and…no need to mention.]

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