Some alcoholic ingredients may not have the recognition and stature of others, but still play an important role in creating a tasty cocktail. Although it's not as popular as vodka, bourbon or gin, vermouth is an integral ingredient in many different mixed drinks. There are different types of vermouth, so distinguishing between them will help you select the right ones for your cocktail.
Vermouth, a fragrant alcoholic beverage with a low potency, is a fortified and aromatized wine-based alcoholic beverage. A distilled grape-based spirit is added to the wine, along with certain herbs and other ingredients, to create each kind of vermouth. Depending on the specific manufacturer and the vermouth type being produced, the recipe for each kind can be very different. Vermouth started out as a medicinal helper, but crossed over into the realm of cocktails due to its versatility and ability to mix with numerous other liquors.
Dry vermouth, also known colloquially as French vermouth, is a clear alcoholic beverage with a slight medicinal taste to it due to the mixture of herbs and other botanicals with the white wine base. Enjoyed either as an aperitif to help muster the appetite or a core ingredient in famed cocktails like the martini, dry vermouth is more savory than the other kinds of vermouth. Dry vermouth only has about 15 to 18 percent alcohol by volume, meaning it adds more flavor than kick to cocktails.
Sweet vermouth, also known as Italian and red vermouth, is much darker in color and much sweeter than dry vermouth -- often having at least 10 percent more sugar than dry vermouths. Sweet vermouths may get their coloring from either a red wine base or added caramel coloring, which often makes them slightly less potent with an alcohol by volume of 15 percent, which is 30 proof. Sweet vermouths are usually also robust and full-bodied, and they may be enjoyed on the rocks or in cocktails, such as Manhattans and Rob Roys.
In addition to the two major kinds of vermouths, dry and sweet, many other variations also exist. Bianco or white vermouth is the third most common kind. This vermouth appears more like dry vermouth but it has a sweeter flavor than sweet vermouth. Bianco vermouth is often served on ice with a lemon wheel or twist. Other lesser known vermouths include rose vermouth, which is a mix of bianco and sweet vermouths, and vermouths flavored with citrus juices. These other vermouths work well on the rocks or in specialty cocktails.
- Good Spirits; A. J. Rathbun
- The Bar: A Spirited Guide to Cocktail Alchemy; Olivier Said and James Mellgren
- The Washington Post: White Vermouth Is Feeling the Love
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