Vermouth. Definitely something you’d expect to find in your granny’s sideboard right next to the sherry and the advocaat. Well we’ve news for you – vermouth is actually quite delicious, a super versatile cocktail ingredient, and it’s undergoing something of a renaissance. We found put our burning questions about the spirit du jour to Max Wagner, co-founder of uber-cool German vermouth brand Belsazar….
What is vermouth?
Vermouth is a type of fortified or aromatised wine flavoured with botanicals. To be classed as vermouth, the drink must be at least 75% wine and contain a small amount of wormwood, plus it can’t have an ABV over 21.9%.
Where does vermouth come from?
Vermouth comes from the German word for wormwood, wermut. Vermouth can be traced back to Hippocrates in Ancient Greece, who matched flowers with wine and added spices, herbs, peels and honey. During 1098-119 Hildegard von Bingen used vermouth as a medicine and cure before German Johannes Coler created a handbook featuring vermouth and spiced wines during the 16th century. Italian Antonio Carpano made vermouth fashionable in 1786 Turin, his wine was popular in Piedmontese society.
What’s the difference between the various types of vermouth?
Most vermouths have either a white or red wine base and are either dry or sweet. French vermouth is classically a Dry White, such as Dolin Dry or Noilly Prat. Sweet red vermouth, such as Carpano Antica Formula, is a reddish brown and often coloured with caramel. You can also get a Sweet White that has floral notes. Belsazar differs in that it uses high quality wines as its base; the Rose is made from Pinot Noir grapes and the Red from Muskateller.
Belsazar Dry has the fruity and floral taste and finishes with bitter aromatics ideal with light gourmet cuisine and classic, dry cocktails.
Belsazar White has full-bodied sweetness and aromas of dried peach and oranges complimented by the vermouth bitter tone. Its whole complexity unfolds when used in full-bodied cocktails or fresh long drinks on ice.
Belsazar Red embraces comforting vanilla sweetness with hints of dark caramel, matured cherries and spices. A strong partner in a dark and heavy classic cocktail.
Belsazar Rosé is a unique development in the field of Vermouth, zesty with fresh and light with tones of summer fruit acidity and vermouth’s typical bitter-sweetness harmonize perfectly.
How should you drink vermouth?
Because of its low ABV, vermouth can be drunk straight over ice with a citrus garnish. Vermouth is one of the ingredients that make a classic Martini, although the amount used is always up for debate. We like adding tonic water for a long, summery and simple cocktail. Red vermouth can be used to make a classic Negroni and Manhattan. Vermouth can also be used to flavour and enhance bespoke cocktails.
Is it something to drink with food? What would you suggest?
Vermouth is an aperitif, generally served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. It is quite delicious paired with cheese, chocolate and can also be used to enhance dishes such as chicken, fish and risotto.
For more information on vermouth and some delish cocktail recipes, see Belsazar’s website.