Everyone loves the underdog, the unspoken hero, the humble foundation onto which more expressive characters flaunt their worth. Present in popular culture and in our day to day lives, the humble hero is always admired — though often underappreciated because of their diligence and dedication to getting the job done, even if the work goes unrecognized.
Welcome to a day in the life of our friend Vermouth. The often thankless element in our most prized cocktails — the Martini, Negroni, and Manhattan just to name a quick few. In fact, vermouth could very well be one of most misunderstood spirits around, namely because the majority of us mistakenly categorize the drink as a mixer as opposed to the aperitif it is (yes, you can drink vermouth neat or on the rocks if you so choose). Its an integral part of the cocktail experience and therefore should no longer go unrecognized or unappreciated on the bar cart (which in and of itself is incorrect since vermouth is actually supposed to be kept in the fridge). Let’s help clear the air then with these premiere 10 best to steer you in the right direction.
Dolin Blanc Vermouth
Best Sweet White
As a timely iteration to the initial introduction of dry vermouth back in 1821, Dolin looked to expand their innovative lineup with a lighter version made from fine wines and botanicals from the Alpine region nestled above Chambery. It’s a sweetened like other variants but without caramelizing the sugars in the process thus allowing for a notable amount of crispness to shine through, making the vermouth both graceful and palate pleasing.
Dolin De Chambery Dry Vermouth
Best Dry White
For those who aren’t aware, the Chambery region of France is historic in their production of white and dry vermouths. So, if you’re planning on opting for dry vermouth to up the quality of that martini, the Dolin De Chambery is a fine start. Each batch is made with fine wines and botanicals found in the region’s Alpine meadows that, when combined, offer elegant yet refreshing notes and a complex palate for the taking. Certainly can’t go wrong here.
Alesso Vermouth Bianco
Best For Martinis
Placed as a “Finalist” in the 2017 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, Alessio Vermouth Bianco is a fine variation of Italian sweet vermouth. The iteration piggybacks on the traditions Blanc that first appeared in France back in the 1880s. This Bianco then strives to capture the original palate from an Italian sweet but with warm spices, mild bitterness, and a crisp citrus finish. It’s dry but not too dry and works fantastically either on its own or in a gin martini.
Tempus Fugit Alessio Vermouth Di Torino Rosso
Best Sweet Red
Formerly known as a “Vino di Torino” or “luxury wine” back in the late 19th century has only continued to gain strength in popularity as sweet red vermouth worth its salt. At the base is a fine Piedmont wine combined with Grande and Petite Wormwood and 25 other pharmaceutical-grade herbs, roots, and spices. The end result is a full-bodied vermouth that’s slightly bitter yet bright — complete with both refreshing citrus and herbal notes on the back end.
Punt e Mes
As legend has it, the name Punt e Mes came about when a Carpano wine shop regular asked for a half-measure of bitter in his usually pre-lunch vermouth via the colloquial phrase “punt e mes.” Now we can’t confirm or deny the story’s authenticity, but it does make sense, all things considered. Meaning, this slightly bitter aperitif serves just fine on its own or as a base for cocktails. Just ask Giovanni Agnelli, the founder of FIAT as he was a habitual Punt e Mes drinker. As for the spirit itself, the vermouth boasts a golden orange hue with herby aromas of black dahlia and vermilion shades, a notably sweet palate with orange accents, and a finish characterized by bitter notes of quina.
La Quintinye Vermouth Royal Extra Dry
Best to Drink Solo
With all the dry brute interest these days, enjoying some extra dry vermouth on its own isn’t out of the question. Hell, we even recommend it. Especially if your glass is graced with this variation from La Quintinye. Each batch takes inspiration from a botanical-heavy approach combined with Pineau de Charentes, white wine, and herbs to yield a deliciously complex aperitif to enjoy over ice. On the nose, enjoy very herby notes of fresh rosemary, sage and lavender, a palate that’s lightly soured to start complemented by tannic grape skin, and a finish fused with sage, wormwood, and peppery spice.
Cocchi Vermouth Di Torino
Best For a Vieux Carre
For more than 100 years, Cocci’s Vermouth Di Torino has been made to a secret family recipe. And rightfully so, considering how versatile this variant is both on its own or supporting a Vieux Carre. That’s all because it’s remarkably complex as an aperitif wine — full flavored with a bitter earthy taste that pairs almost perfectly well against the sweeter notes of licorice, orange zest, and sugar. Combine those tasting notes with a bitter yet notably sweet finish and you have yourself a winner here.
Best For a Negroni
With a storied history dating back to Turin (now in modern-day Northern Italy) in 1786, Carpano Antica stands out among the crowd for its unique nose and iconic vanilla notes. Each batch remains in line with the traditional recipe — utilizing white wines from selected Italian grape varieties and then aromatized via hot infusion and cold extraction. The process yields an unmistakable bouquet of vanilla and dried fruit on the nose and palate combined with bitter orange, dates, cocoa beans, and saffron for an ideal finish.
Balsam Vermouth Rosé
Yes, we know some consider rosé to be a fad but hear us out first before jumping to conclusions, for Balsam’s complex vermouth rosé stands out as an off-dry spirit thanks to the infusion of rose with hibiscus flowers and melons. Through this ideal complementary setup, there’s no discrimination to what pairs well with this option. Don’t believe us? Try it on its own, frozen with lemonade or as 50/50 cocktail with gin, white whiskey or even mezcal.
Cocchi Barolo Chinato
Made famous during the Belle Epoque and Italian Futurist period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Apertivo Americano and vermouths were enjoyed by the influential minds of their day. Decades later, this aromatized wine works both by itself and in lieu of standard sweet vermouth in a Manhattan. Each Cocchi Barolo Chinato is infused with quinine bark, rhubarb, ginger, cardamom, cocoa, and other notable spices resulting in a deep back palate for an enjoyable digestif. It offers a richness that works quite well with complex whiskeys.
20 Home Bar Essentials For Every Cocktail Enthusiast
Now that the vermouth is covered, the time has come to outfit the home bar with all the gear needed to craft the perfect cocktail. Just take a look at this list of the best home bar essentials to get started.