What Does Vermouth Taste Like?

If you only know vermouth from its inclusion in a martini, you’re missing out. While it is a popular addition to many drinks, it’s its own beverage as well. A fortified wine, vermouth has come a long way.

Vermouth is generally thought of as either sweet or dry. Sweet vermouth is slightly sweet, spicy, and bitter, with hints of vanilla and caramel. Dry vermouth tends to be crisp and tart with notes of floral and herbs.

Sweet and dry are the most popular types but there are some others as well.

Sweet Vermouth

More often than not, sweet vermouth is made with red wine, and is, well, red. It has a fairly full body.

To make it a fortified wine, a spirit must be added. Generally, it’s a brandy that’s added to the wine. 

However, while brandy is fairly common, the infusion of flavors can vary greatly. Some of the more popular flavors are cocoa, toffee, vanilla, and warm spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.

Dry Vermouth

In contrast, dry vermouth is typically made with while wine and is white in color. It has a somewhat harsh bitter finish that is fairly dry.

Although it also uses brandy to fortify it, dry vermouth has a different flavor. Dry vermouth is more fruity, floral, and herby than sweet vermouth.

Drinking Vermouth

Now that you know the difference between a sweet and a dry vermouth, let’s talk about how to drink it. Until recently, most vermouths were used as part of cocktails. Now, however, vermouth is being made as a drink that stands alone.

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Vermouth Cocktails

The three most popular vermouth cocktails might be a martini, a manhattan, and a negroni. 

That said, vermouth is incredibly versatile and used in a number of cocktails. It can help lower the alcohol content of other spirits, so it’s commonly used widely. 

In addition, vermouth can have such complex and varying flavors that there is always a place for it. it’s just as welcome in a sweet drink as a spicy one.

Vermouth Aperitif 

Typically in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and France, a vermouth aperitif before a meal is common. Sometimes it’s served with a wedge of orange.

While you can drink anything you like, it’s more common to drink sweet red vermouth alone. Good vermouth can be served over ice and sipped. 

Drinking this way should be moderately sweet with a full body. You should get notes of citrus fruit, cinnamon, and a variety of herbs. In addition, there can be hints of vanilla or caramel as well.

Cooking With Vermouth

When cooking with vermouth, you’ll generally be using a white, dry vermouth. This can be used in place of white wine.

However, dry vermouth has a stronger flavor than white wine, so you might want to use less. Also, keep in mind that different types of vermouth are infused with different flavors. Make sure you’re matching the flavors of your vermouth to that of your meal.

The Takeaway

While vermouth is typically known for cocktails, it’s becoming more common to drink it over ice. 

Sweet vermouth is sweet with some spiciness, as well as notes of vanilla and caramel. Dry vermouth, however, has a citrus taste along with some floral and herby notes.