History of Vermouth
The origins of vermouth go back to ancient Egypt. In ancient times, the drink was known as an effective remedy. Hippocrates, for example, used the elixir to treat jaundice or tetanus. But also in Asia a kind of early vermouth was known as a mixture of wine with barks, flowers and other ingredients.
The vermouth that is known today was most likely developed in Savoy. As early as the beginning of the 16th century, a certain Ruscelli was known to sell flavored wine there. The development of the wine-based drink is closely linked to the name of Antonio Carpano, who sold his vermouth in Turin at the end of the 18th century. He became famous because he offered vermouth on a commercial scale. But more about that later.
Vermouth probably originated by adding sweeteners such as sugar and caramel, as well as herbs, to a red wine. Later, variants made from white wine, which were both dry and sweet in taste, became established. This resulted in the distinct differences in taste that are evident in the mostly dry French vermouth and the more mellow Italian vermouth.
In the 20th century, vermouth fell out of favor, especially among connoisseurs. The term or designation "vermouth brother" was readily used as a synonym for a tramp, and vermouth was accordingly considered a drink of the poor. The popularity of flavored wine has increased significantly in the last two decades. The trend can also be seen in the variety of new brands that can be discovered in the Vermouth Shop.
Where does vermouth get its name?
Vermouth got its name from the wormwood herb. It is a herbaceous plant that can grow up to 150 cm high. It is found mainly in Morocco, India and Algeria. The wormwood herb contains a high concentration of bitter substances, which are characteristic of a vermouth.
The importance of Antonio Carpano for the Vermouth
The history of vermouth is inextricably linked to Antonio Benedetto Carpano. Who was this man? Carpano was born in Italy in 1751 and is considered the inventor of vermouth. He became interested in natural and agricultural sciences in his youth. Later, he became a clerk in a liquor store in Turin. Carpano set out to create a drink that was particularly suitable for the ladies of society. It was to replace the red wine that had been obligatory until then. In this way he developed the basis for today's vermouth, adding sugar, 30 herbs and spices to a wine and splashing it. For him, the drink created in this way was considered a kind of wine liqueur.
This drink, with its characteristic bitter-sweet taste, he now began to market. In a short time it was so popular that his store in Turin had to open around the clock. Carpano exported the drink and vermouth became the court drink in the Kingdom of Savoy. Thanks to Carpano's activity, vermouth is considered inseparable from Piedmont. In Turin and other parts of Piedmont developed the guard of vermouth producers. You can still buy a Carpano Vermouth today. It is made according to the old recipes, which are, of course, the secret of the producer.
How is a Vermouth made?
The use of high quality ingredients ensure the high quality of the best vermouth brands. To make a flavored wine, a base wine is first selected to be the basis for the vermouth. Equally carefully, the herbs, roots or spices are selected to provide the flavoring for the vermouth. The best brands have recipes for this that may well be centuries old.
The ingredients are either macerated or infused into the base wine. Which ingredients and how they are added are closely guarded secrets of the individual producers. Often the ingredients are not only from the producer's region, but are imported from all over the world to make the vermouth taste unique.
What happens during maceration?
A basic method in the production of a vermouth is maceration. The process of maceration can be compared to that of making a cup of tea using the loose-leaf method. In the fortified wine and alcohol, the aromas are extracted from the plant substances. Subsequently, the solid parts of the plant are filtered out of the brew. Each producer has its own recipe, not only for the herbs, roots and spices used, but also in terms of the exact time the botanicals must remain in the wine. The longest known period lasts 45 days.
What happens during infusion?
The alternate method in vermouth production, besides maceration, is infusion. It is applied during the production process simultaneously with the distillation of the enrichment spirit. In this process, the enrichment spirit is distilled through the herbal substances that belong to the particular recipe. During distillation, the botanicals are in a container such as a basket above the liquid. As the liquid is heated, the resulting vapor passes through the botanicals in the containers. The vapor stream thereby extracts the aromas contained in the botanicals and returns them to the fortifying spirit during distillation. This liquid then enters the wine. This admixture is also called enrichment of the base wine with the spirit. Enrichment achieves the required alcohol content of between 18 and 22 percent. To obtain the characteristic sweetness, sugar or sweetener is now added.
What is the taste of vermouth?
Anyone who wants to buy a vermouth can look forward to a wide range of different flavors. Basically, it can be said that every flavored wine has its own taste. Producers usually keep their recipes top secret and each producer has its own special ingredient or several of them.
In other words, the flavor profiles of Vermouth are very complex and different. In each brand can be identified its own notes. Often the individual ingredients are not recognizable and are characterized solely by their interaction. Extracts from plants of the genus Artemisia are always present. In addition, there can be quite different ingredients. Typical are herbs such as marjoram, ginger, rose and lavender. Or spices such as vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon and citrus peel. Also popular is the use of roots such as orris, angelica and licorice.
There are basically three broad classifications in flavored wine:
- Vermouth Rosso, a sweet, red vermouth.
- Vermouth Blanco, a sweet white vermouth
- dry Vermouth
In this context, there is also a differentiation according to the color of the vermouth. Here, the colors play less of a role in terms of taste. They are rather an indication of the proportion of sweetness and style.
Vermouth Rosso comes from Italy and is very sweet. It can be found in the Vermouth Shop as a red sweet vermouth. This flavored wine is especially popular in Spain, where people like it a little lighter and less bitter than in Italy, for example. The Blanco or white Vermouth is often drunk in France. It, too, is usually very sweet. Also of the French type is the Vermouth Dry. It is made on the basis of a white wine and is very dry. The Dry or the dry Vermouth is an excellent choice as an ingredient for a cocktail. It can be found in Martini, Bensonhurst, El Presidente and many other cocktails.
Both the sweet red Vermouth and the sweet white Vermouth are suitable for mixed drinks such as Negroni, Americano and Manhattan. In addition to the two colors, red and white, there have also been gold and rosé versions for some time. The Rosé Vermouth has a rosé wine as its base for color and flavor. A Gold Vermouth gets its golden hue from an enriching spirit. This can be an old brandy, for example.
How is Vermouth stored?
Vermouth is a wine beverage. Therefore, it also has the property of wine to oxidize with time. This negative property also affects the storage of a Vermouth. It is best to store a vermouth in a refrigerator. An opened bottle should be emptied within about three months. This information could affect the size of the bottle if you want to buy vermouth. If the vermouth is to be used for making mixed drinks and therefore only a small amount is needed at a time, one should adjust the bottle size accordingly.
What are the Vermouth regulations?
If you want to buy a vermouth, you can rely on a protected name. At least in Europe, the beverage name is clearly defined and secured by legal regulations of the European Union. According to these regulations, the definition for a vermouth is as follows: A Vermouth is an aromatized wine. Alcohol has been added to it. Its aroma comes from the use of substances extracted from Artemisia species.
The regulation subsequently also defines what it means by aromatized wine. Accordingly, it is a beverage that is
- is obtained from one or more products of viticulture
- where the proportion of wine-growing products is at least 75 percent
- colorants may be added
- may contain sweeteners and grape must or grape must in fermentation
- has an alcohol content of not less than 14.5% and not more than 22% by volume.
Classification of Vermouth according to sugar content
In the Vermouth Shop you can buy different types of Vermouth. Among other things, they are distinguished by the proportion of sugar. Depending on the sugar content, they are divided into different categories:
- Extra dry: 0 to 29 g of sugar/liter with a minimum alcohol content of 15%.
- Dry: 30 to 49 g sugar/liter with at least 16% alcohol content
- Semi-dry: 50 to 90 g sugar/liter
- Sweet: 90 to 130 g sugar/liter
- Sweet: 130 g or more sugar/liter
Only the Vermouth di Torino and Vermouth de Chambery appellations are protected areas of origin.
The special vermouth drinks in the Vermouth Shop
Over time, some brands and varieties have established themselves on the market as special vermouths. We will subsequently present the most important of them.
The Cinzano Vermouth
The registered brand Cinzano comes from Milan and was founded back in 1757 A Cinzano Vermouth is offered in five flavors. They include:
- Bianco (tart-sweet, white color, cinnamon and clove flavors).
- Rosso (spicy, ruby red color, thyme and marjoram as aromas)
- Extra Dry (very dry, light color)
- Limetto (fruity, pale green color, aroma of lime)
- Orancio (fruity, sunny yellow color, aromas of vanilla and orange).
A Cinzano Vermouth can be used as an aperitif as well as for long drinks and cocktails. The Orancio is also often served as a hot drink.
The history of the Cinzano brand
The brand was founded in the middle of the 18th century, in Turin. Wine and sparkling wine were the products distilled in the small craft distillery. In the 19th century, Cinzano began industrial production. The brand became known for its creative advertising, which eventually made it the k.u.k. Court supplier. Vermouth was also particularly popular in the "Golden Twenties" of the last century. Today, Cinzano is part of the Campari Group and is one of the second most popular vermouth brands in the world.
How is a Cinzano Vermouth produced?
Four steps are required in the production of Cinzano Vermouth. First, the initial wines are put together. These are mainly Piedmontese Muscat wines, which are combined to form a cuvée, or blend. The cuvée is then aromatized with a herbal extract. The aromatized wine is now fined and filtered and then aged until ready for bottling. The Cinzano Vermouth has an alcohol content of 15% by volume and the Cinzano Limetto one of 14.8% by volume.
The Gotano Vermouth
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Gotano was one of the top three vermouth brands in the world. This vermouth was manufactured in Gotha, Thuringia. The manufacturer, Thüringer Weinkellereien GmbH Gotha, was founded in 1927 and the company's portfolio included mainly Italian luxury foods and wines. Later, the company produced these luxury foods itself according to original recipes. In 1972, an apple cellar, a sparkling wine cellar and the Gotha wine cellar merged to form the Thuringian Wine Cellars. Until 2009, an excellent vermouth was produced here.
The Martinazzi Bitter
The Martinazzi is a vermouth with the maximum volume content of 22 percent. The famous aperitif is produced with a total of 25 herbs and roots. The Martinazzi has its origin in the year 1864 in Turin. Almost 60 years later, a Swiss, Ernst Luginbühl-Bögli bought the recipe. Today, the Matter-Luginbühl distillery in Bern produces Martinazzi Bitter. The aperitif is drunk iced, neat or as a mixed drink with the ingredients grapefruit, orangina, iced tea or mineral water.
Vermouth from Martini & Rossi
The Italian beverage producer Martini & Rossi is particularly known for its vermouth brand Martini. The Turin entrepreneurs are also the producers of the no less well-known vermouth called Noilly Prat. The company was founded in 1863, the same year the production of vermouth started in Pessione near Turin. By the end of the 19th century, the brand was already famous worldwide. There were branches in Geneva, Barcelona and even Buenos Aires. Later, the company was sold to the Bacardi Group. The Martini Rosso is the most famous product of the company.
The Noilly Prat
An excellent French vermouth in the Vermouth Shop is the Noilly Prat. The basis for this excellent vermouth is two white wines that come from the south of France. To these two wines comes the Mistela from Andalusia. It is not without reason that Noilly Prat is considered the most aromatic vermouth.
Noilly Prat is produced in the south of France. It was here that the company of the same name was founded in 1813. After the relocation from Lyon to Marseille, the still valid recipe crystallized, which makes Noilly Prat so unique. Noilly Prat has a special position in the United States. Here, the southern French drink is the leading vermouth. Noilly Prat is stored in oak barrels. The storage period also includes a year in which the barrels lie in the open air. Noilly Prat has a slightly chocolaty to sweet taste. It can be drunk cold or at room temperature.
How to drink a vermouth in style?
With a vermouth, connoisseurs buy a drink that they can drink in many ways. Vermouth is well known as a cocktail, as in the Manhattan, or as an aperitif, for example, a martini. But vermouth is far more versatile. It can be enjoyed puritanically with just one ingredient or refined as part of a mixed drink. In both cases, vermouth can develop its full flavor.
The easiest way to enjoy Vermouth is with tonic, soda or a slice of orange. The particularly great Vermouth brands can be drunk neat or on ice. There are also big regional differences in how a vermouth is drunk. In Spain, for example, people drink a red sweet vermouth in combination with one or two orange slices. The orange balances the sweetness while providing an additional fruity note. Vermouth can often be enjoyed this way as an aperitif before dinner.
For those who are not sure whether to drink their Vermouth neat or as a cocktail, it is recommended to always try a sip neat. Each Vermouth has its own special note. Vermouth is also always an optimal choice as a party or evening drink due to its relatively low alcohol content.