What is vermouth (or vermouth): history, preparation and use

Vermouth is a flavoured wine created in 1786 in Turin. It is recognised as a traditional Italian food product and is a primary ingredient in many famous cocktails. Since 2017, Vermouth di Torino has also become a registered geographical indication.

History of Vermouth

Vermouth is the result of a long tradition of aromatised wines, dating back to antiquity: Hippocrates is said to have already enjoyed drinking wine flavoured (hippocras) with herbs, spices and honey. In Germany around 1600 a wine infused with herbs and wormwood was prepared, in German called Wermuth, although it was not marketed but only consumed in unofficial situations.
In Italy, the first to discuss vermouth in a text was Villifranchi, in 1773. But it was in Turin that Antonio Benedetto Carpano officially industrialised this flavoured liqueur wine, and it was between Piedmont and France that it became most popular.

Vermouth: how it is made

Vermouth is made from white or red sugary wines with a neutral, delicate flavour, 95-96° alcohol, sugar (sucrose) and aromatic plants, the most important of which is wormwood (Artemisia absinthium L.).
Italian law defines vermouth as a product with an alcohol content of not less than 16% and not more than 22% by volume and which, in addition, must contain artemisia, which constitutes the characterising element. It must consist of at least 75% sweetened and flavoured white or red wine. The percentage of sugar is also regulated, but varies, as does the alcohol content, depending on the type of vermouth.
Vermouth, both white and red, must have an alcohol content of no less than 15.5% vol. and a minimum sugar content of 14%; dry vermouth, on the other hand, must have a minimum alcohol content of 18% vol. and a maximum 7% sugar content.

Take part in an interactive Vermouth preparation workshop at Casa Martini: an interactive workshop where you will learn all about vermouth, from its history to its production techniques.
You will also discover how to prepare your own personalised vermouth to take home.

Ingredients and aromas

The aromas of vermouth are derived from a mixture of herbs, spices and flowers. The most commonly used herbs are wormwood, camedrio, holy thistle, coca, hyssop, marjoram, lemon balm, dittamo, thyme and sage. The most commonly used flowers are chamomile, hops, elderberry, saffron and cloves. The most commonly used fruits are star anise, fennel, coriander, cardamom, orange (bark), mace, nutmeg, tonka bean and vanilla. The most commonly used roots are angelica, aromatic calamus, enula campana, galanga, gentian, imperatoria, ireos, ginger and zedoaria. The most commonly used peels are cinnamon, cinchona and pomegranate. Quassia wood and aloe juice may be used in smaller quantities.

Types

There are various styles of vermouth, generally distinguished by colour (red, white and rosé) and taste (sweet, dry, extra dry and chinato).
Red vermouth is the most popular and has a ruby red colour. It has a sweet and aromatic flavour, with notes of absinthe, fruit and spices.
White vermouth has a straw-yellow colour. It has a drier and more citrus flavour than red vermouth.
Rosé vermouth has a pinkish colour. It has an intermediate flavour between red vermouth and white vermouth.
Dry vermouth has a dry and bitter flavour. It is less popular than sweet vermouth, but is appreciated by cocktail enthusiasts.
Extra dry vermouth is the driest of all the vermouth types. It has a very dry and bitter flavour, with notes of absinthe and spices.
Vermouth chinato has a sweet and aromatic flavour, with notes of absinthe and cinchona. It is often used in cocktails such as the Negroni.

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