I don’t like vermouth. I like some drinks that contain vermouth, but… it’s kind of like salt. It can be an ingredient, but you’d never consume it on its own.
But there are some people who disagree with me (I know! I was shocked too!), and so I went to the panel “Great American Vermouth Revival: Elevating Classic and Modern Cocktails”, in hopes that learning more about it would increase my appreciation.
The first tid-bit, from vermouth maker Adam Ford of Atsby Vermouth, is that the FDA definition of vermouth is:
“an aromatized, fortified wine with the characteristic flavor of vermouth.”
In other words:
Obviously, that leaves a lot of leeway when it comes to flavor. Generally vermouth is divided into “sweet” (Italian) or “dry” (French), but American vermouth makers have been developing a unique take on it. Franky Marshall, bartender at the Dead Rabbit, said:
Also, the name comes from the German word for “wormwood.” Neat.
The panel also spent some time discussion the martini. Some of the oldest recipes call for 2-to-1 vermouth-to-gin, but today it’s usually 1-to-3 – and mid-20th Century drinkers changed that to 1-to-7, 1-to-15, or even less. Let’s face it, every story you’ve ever heard about the martini is about how little vermouth people can put in it.
But the ultra-dry martini is a mistake that’s become a bit of folklore. Amy Zavatto, from Edible Manhtattan, said:
Another reason for the public’s aversion to vermouth: It goes bad. Vermouth is a wine, so once the bottle opens, it’s going to turn sour and bad in a few weeks. Most people’s first experience with vermouth is a dusty bottle from the back of the liquor cabinet that’s half-turned to vinegar.
Bianca Miraglia, founder of Uncouth Vermouth, gets frustrated when people ask exactly how long a bottle of vermouth will last if kept in the fridge:
Several repeats of this experiment established that vermouth is just not the drink for me.
But at least I learned enough to toss out my parents’ ancient, opened bottles of vermouth when I went to visit last week. And I’ll get some fresh stuff for my next Manhattan!