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The Different Styles of Vermouth, Explained

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Vermouth is a key ingredient in a number of classic cocktails, like a martini, Negroni or Manhattan. But for decades, vermouth took a backseat to the other elements of these drinks like gin, bourbon and whiskey. But vermouth is having a moment, and understanding the different vermouth styles is key to shaking (or mixing) up a delicious cocktail.

Major brands like Martini & Rossi, Carpano Classico, Cinzano, Noilly Prat and Dolin still shine. But, smaller craft producers, including Distefano Winery Poppi Dry Vermouth and Method Spirits Sweet Vermouth, are creating unique flavors and gaining a following.

Here’s a look at the different vermouth styles and how they can be incorporated into many different cocktails.

What Is Vermouth?  

Vermouth has been around for centuries and was originally created for medicinal purposes, says Anthony Caporale, director of spirits education at the Institute of Culinary Education. It’s a fortified wine, which means distilled alcohol (like brandy or a neutral spirit) is added to increase the alcohol content and stop the fermentation process, explains Gregory Bonath, a chief instructor at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin.

The fortified wine must then be infused with botanicals to be considered vermouth. Some common infusions include wormwood, orange peel, juniper, star anise and angelica root. Many brands keep their exact ingredients top secret, though. This is why the flavor profile of the final product varies depending on the region and producer.