Sweet vermouth is a fortified wine that’s used to add flavor to cocktails. It’s traditionally sweet, with a hint of herbs and spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
Because it’s fortified (meaning it has alcohol added), you can use it as a substitute for regular vodka in any drink. It also works well as a substitute for other liquors like whiskey or gin when making classic cocktails like the Manhattan or Negroni.
Sweet vermouth typically ranges from 16% to 22% ABV (alcohol by volume). However, there are exceptions: Martini & Rossi Rosso Vermouth is actually only 15%. So if you want something higher proof than this common brand name variety—which may be necessary depending on what your recipe calls for—you should look for something else.
A lot of classic cocktails call for sweet vermouth, but it’s not something that everyone has sitting in their liquor cabinet. Or maybe you want to make something new?
If you want to try a new cocktail or an old favorite and don’t have sweet vermouth you can try a sweet red wine, amaro, or a combination of dry red wine and simple syrup.
Keep reading for all the great substitutes for sweet vermouth in your favorite cocktails.
Is Sweet Vermouth a Wine or Liquor?
Sweet vermouth is a type of fortified wine, which means it has been infused with alcohol and sweetened with sugar.
It’s made from red wine, herbs, and spices that include cinnamon, cloves, and other botanicals. Liquor is added to the wine to stabilize it for the shelf. Sweet vermouth is a common addition to cocktails like Negroni, Manhattan, and Americano.
You’ll find vermouth made from white wine, but that’s considered dry vermouth that’s often used in martinis.
What Can I Use Instead of Sweet Vermouth?
1. Sweet Red Wine
A little sweeter than your sweet vermouth would be, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A sweet red wine will work instead of sweet vermouth in a pinch.
You would use the same amount of red wine that you would use of sweet vermouth in the recipe. It’s a great option when you’re pairing it with desserts and soft cheese.
If you’re looking to substitute sherry for vermouth, then you’re in luck! Sherry is a fortified wine made in the Jerez region of Spain that has a very distinctive flavor and is often used as a substitute for vermouth.
Whether you’re cooking or making cocktails, sherry is a good substitute for sweet vermouth.
Sherry has a nutty and fruity flavor that pairs well with white meat, and milder foods like olives, seafood, cheese, and almonds.
Sherry is not as sweet as your average sweet vermouth. Keep that in mind. You can use equal amounts of sherry as you would sweet vermouth, especially in desserts, cocktails, and cooking.
3. Dry red wine & simple syrup
Take a dry red wine and add a splash of simple syrup. Classic sweet vermouth has some bitter flavors that compliment the other alcohols in your cocktail.
Add simple syrup to your dry red wine to taste. Once you’ve achieved perfection, add to your cocktail in the same amount you would use the sweet vermouth.
Dry red wine is a great substitute for cooking as well.
Marsala is a fortified wine from Sicily that’s made from a blend of wines from four different grapes. It can be used in cooking to make sauces and desserts, but it’s not as sweet as vermouth. Marsala has a rich, complex flavor that makes it an excellent substitute for sweet vermouth.
Port is also a great substitute for sweet vermouth. It’s made from wine, so you can use it in cooking and pair it with desserts. If you’re trying to make a cocktail and don’t have any sweet vermouth on hand, port will do just fine!
Each port has a slightly different flavor profile, but you can find caramel, cinnamon, chocolate, and berries like raspberry and blackberry.
The classic Manhattan made with port becomes a dessert rather than aperitif. If you’d like something closer to the original, substitute the sweet vermouth with a younger ruby port.
Adding an older tawny port will create something much more sweet and decadent.
When it comes to cooking, a tawny or ruby port will make great sauces and stews, or a marinade for sweet meats.
Amaro is a family of Italian herbal liqueurs or bitters. Any member of this particular family would make a great sweet vermouth substitute.
Some are quite bitter and some are incredibly sweet. Which one you should choose depends on your preferences. For your first try, go for a dark and sweet Meletti or the Amaro Tosolini.
Keeping with the above, the Sicilian amaro, Averna, is a common addition to a Black Manhattan already. The amaro is used instead of vermouth in this recipe anyway.
Averna adds a deeper flavor than vermouth with notes of rosemary, juniper, sage, anise, and bitter orange. The silky texture makes it a great vermouth substitute for any aperitif.
You’ll find that this liqueur is often served on its own as well as a digestif.
Madeira is another fortified wine. It has a sweet and nutty flavor, which makes it a good substitute for sweet vermouth in cooking.
Madeira can be substituted for sweet vermouth in the following recipes:
- Chicken casserole with mushrooms and peas
- Beef stew with carrots, onions, and potatoes
- Pairings with tart cheese like blue cheese
- Chocolate desserts
- Pairing with nuts, berries, and honey
9. Balsamic Vinegar
The sweet and acidic flavors of balsamic vinegar with its thick texture make it a great non-alcoholic substitute for sweet vermouth in cooking.
Balsamic vinegar is made from fermenting grapes in wooden barrels.
It’s a great sweet vermouth substitute in risotto, marinades, vegetable dishes, desserts, and salad dressings.
To use as a substitute for sweet vermouth, add ⅓ balsamic vinegar to ⅔ water. So, if you’re in need of 1 cup of sweet vermouth you would mix ⅓ cup of balsamic vinegar with ⅔ cup of water.
For those who really like the bitter flavors that accompany a good sweet vermouth, Cynar is a good substitute for you. The heavy botanical and artichoke leaves give this liqueur a distinct flavor with an earthy bitter taste.
If you’re using Cynar to replace your sweet vermouth, add a splash of orange bitters to lighten it up a little, and add the fruity notes. After that, a sweet bourbon finishes it off for a great sweet vermouth substitute.
11. Punt e Mes
Punt e Mes is what’s known as an aromatized wine with a white wine base that sits nicely between the bitter notes you’ll find in a classic amaro and the sweet flavors of the Italian vermouth.
A great addition to a Manhattan (with no need for Angostura) you’ll note flavors of plum, cherries, cinnamon, and blood orange due to the 10 different spices and herbs that infuse this liqueur.
12. Red wine vinegar
For a non-alcoholic substitute in cooking, there’s always red wine vinegar. This red wine based vinegar has sweeter flavors alongside the typical acidity of vinegar.
It’s great to use as a sweet vermouth substitute in marinades, dressings, and sauces.
To substitute for 1 cup of sweet vermouth, add ⅓ cup of red wine vinegar to ⅔ cup of water.
13. Grape Juice
This sweet juice can be used as a substitute for sweet vermouth in a pinch.
Because it’s significantly sweeter than the vermouth, you’ll want to use much less in your recipe.
When you’re cooking, this non-alcoholic substitute can be used in half the amount. If you need 1 cup of sweet vermouth, then only add ½ a cup of red grape juice.
14. Lillet blanc
Another aromatized wine, Lillet blanc, is sweet and light. The herbal, floral, and citrus notes will blend nicely with anything that requires sweet vermouth.
A common aperitif and cocktail ingredient, it makes a fair sweet vermouth substitute.
It’s not quite as sweet as sweet vermouth, but makes up for that with the fresh flavor.
What’s the Best Sweet Vermouth Substitute?
Sherry is one of the most common. It’s also got some of the best qualities: it can be sweetened with sugar or honey, so it’s like a fortified wine that tastes like vermouth but has more alcohol content (20% ABV).
The easiest substitute would be a dry red wine with a splash of simple syrup. Not only is it easy, but you can cater it to your tastes and the two ingredients are probably sitting in your cabinet at home.
For a non-alcoholic substitute, red wine vinegar is a great option as it mimics similar flavors in your cooking.
There are many options to replace that sweet vermouth in your favorite recipes whether cocktails or cooking!
If you want to try out some of these options, we recommend starting with Sherry and Marsala. Both are great substitutes for sweet vermouth and will give your cocktail a unique flavor profile that makes it stand out from others!