Versatile, diverse, and equally wonderful sipped on its own or mixed in a cocktail, a good vermouth is an essential part of any home bar. A key cocktail ingredient, whether your poison is a martini, negroni, manhattan, or americano, you won’t get far without good vermouth. In fact, it’s the resurgence of cocktail culture in recent years that has helped breathe new life into what is a very traditional and storied drink.
The fortified, aromatised wine, flavoured with herbs, botanicals, and spices, are usually consumed as aperitifs, with wormwood considered a key appetite stimulant.
Sacred English amber
This London based distiller’s range of vermouths is so good, it picked up not one, but two awards at the 2019 World Vermouth Awards. Though there was a category nod for its English dry, it’s the English Amber Vermouth, named the World’s Best Vermouth, that we enjoyed the most. Made in partnership with Alessandro Palazzi, of Dukes Hotel – a lauded drinking spot once aptly favoured by Bond author, Ian Fleming himself – this vermouth uses English wine from Three Choirs vineyard in Gloucestershire, and 16 botanicals including distilled gentian root and orris and macerated wormwood and orange peel. Dukes Hotel uses it in its vesper martini, however, with its rich, brandy-like aroma, orange and rich fruit notes, we think it’s beautiful simply with tonic water.
Antica Formula carpano
Not just a classic, this vermouth was created by the “godfather” of vermouth, Antonio Benedetto Carpano, who created the recipe for Antica in 1786. And as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Using the original recipe, this Italian red vermouth combines white wine, Piedmontese muscatel and wines of southern Italy, with vanilla from Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and Tahiti, alongside other botanicals. The result is vanilla forward and fruity, with beautiful cherry, raisin, chocolate and coffee. Pairing beautifully with the flavours of good bourbon, it makes for an incredible manhattan.
Punt E Mus
Bartender favourite Punt e Mes traces its roots to the acclaimed carpano distillery in Torino, Italy, and with its distinctive bitter taste profile, it makes an excellent base for a negroni. This red vermouth uses a white wine base and 10 herbs and spices, including quinine. It was created in 1870 when, as the story has it, a stockbroker commiserating a point and a half loss on the market ordered vermouth with an extra point and a half of bitterness, earning the vermouth its name. Thick, sweet, and warming, there’s clove, orange zest and burnt sugar on the finish. Excellent in cocktails, or serve simply with ice, soda, and a wedge of orange.
Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
Produced according to the original recipe of Giulio Cocchi, who founded this respected house in 1891, this sweet Italian vermouth is made from Moscato wine and a secret blend of botanicals. Fruity and sweet on the nose, there’s candied peel, vanilla and dandelion and burdock. While to sip, you’ll get bitter orange, smoothed out by creamy chocolate, alongside some woody notes and a menthol freshness. Sip and savour over ice, with a twist of lemon.
Baldoria vermouth Ciano
From the Paris based Bonomy Group – owners of the Little Red Door bar, as well as Lulu White, and restaurant Bonhomie – comes Baldoria. Created in partnership with Italian distillery argalà in Boves, Italy, the range of vermouths use indigenous foraged botanicals from the surrounding fields, hills, and woodlands with wormwood, rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, beetroot, and mint grown in the distillery’s own garden.
It’s a big range – with a dry, Rosso, Bianco already launched, and a rosé, dry Rosso, bitter, umami and orange wine vermouth in the works. We love Bianco’s floral spiciness. Though sweet, there’s an underlying earthiness, a touch of clove and lavender and a little pepper and a hint of almond.
While gorgeous when served over ice on a hot afternoon, it’s been designed for use in cocktails too. And not that we judge books by its cover, but this gets marks for its beautiful packaging too, with cork stopper, and beautifully embossed label.
Another product on our list created by one of the world’s best bars is further proof – if it were needed – of vermouth’s integral role in creating great cocktails. This one is delightfully different and distinct in its flavour profile. Made using Greek wine from Nemea, and Greek botanicals including oregano, thyme, olive leaves, citrus fruits, alongside vanilla, rose petals, and kumquat. There are notes of blackcurrant and Turkish delight, lemon, and a little saltiness. A delight over ice, or serve with tonic water, and lemon.
Made with German wines, Belsazar set out to redefine vermouth when it launched in 2013. Created in Baden at the edge of the Black Forest mountain range in Germany, Belsazar’s range uses grapes from the Markgräflerland and Kaiserstuhl regions, which are then infused with herbs and finished with a dash of fruit brandy and aged for up to three months. There’s a dry, red, white, and limited edition riesling in the range, but we love the uniqueness of the rosé. Delicious simply over ice, it’s delicately sweet, rounded and fruity, with raspberry, orange, and tangy grapefruit notes. Bring out its bitter finish with a bit of tonic.
Noilly Prat original dry
This French dry vermouth is a bar staple. The white wine base is left to age in the open air for a year before flavouring with a blend of 20 herbs and spices including chamomile, coriander from Morocco, bitter oranges from Tunisia, cardamom from India, and elderflower, before leaving to age again. With its herbal, almost pine-like freshness, it makes for a beautiful dry martini.
Padro and Co Rojo Classico
The Padró family from the tiny village of Bràfim, an hour south of Barcelona, has been producing vermouth for five generations. And this beautiful packaged red vermouth is made using Macabeo and xarel lo grapes from the family’s own vines. A secret mix of herbs and spices is added before being rested for between nine and 12 months in sherry casks. Fruity and mature, the strong medicinal clove and currant notes are well balanced with sweet citrus and cinnamon. Warming and satisfying.
Cucielo rosso vermouth di torino
Standing out for its beautiful art deco style label, which is intended to reference vermouth’s golden era, Cucielo is available in both a Bianco and a Rosso. Made in Piedmont, natural Italian botanicals and, of course, Italian wines are used for both types. We particularly like the Rosso – there are some floral notes on the nose, including lilac, and a little rose, and to sip there’s marzipan, caramel, rhubarb, anise, cloves, vanilla, raisin, and a little pepper followed by a cool menthol finish. Overall there’s a beautiful balance of sweet and bitter.
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