What is Vermouth?

Vermouth is a fortified wine that is flavoured with various botanicals. A variety of herbs and spices are used to flavour vermouth, a fortified wine. There are two main ways to make it traditionally: dry (white) vermouth and sweet (red) vermouth. French-born dry one is known for being dry and flowery and is used to prepare martinis.

Typically from Italy, sweet vermouth is used in cocktails like the Manhattan and Negroni. It has a sweet, spicy, and herbal flavour. Vermouths, both dry and sweet, are also consumed as an aperitif. Vermouth has a slightly higher alcohol content than non-fortified wine because it is a fortified wine.

What is Vermouth?

Vermouth is a fortified wine that is flavoured with various botanicals, herbs, and spices. It is commonly used as an ingredient in cocktails but can also be enjoyed on its own. Vermouth originated in Europe and has a long history dating back to the 18th century.

The base of it is typically a white wine, although red vermouth is also available. The wine is fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit or brandy to increase its alcohol content. After fortification, the wine is infused with a blend of botanicals, which can include herbs, roots, flowers, bark, seeds, and spices. The specific combination of botanicals used varies among different producers, leading to variations in flavour profiles.

It’s important to note that it is a wine-based product and has an alcohol content typically ranging from 15% to 18% by volume. After opening its bottle, it should be stored in a cool, dark place and consumed within a few weeks for optimal flavour.

What Does Vermouth Taste Like?

The taste can vary depending on the specific type (dry, sweet, Bianco, etc.) and the brand. However, some general characteristics can be used to describe the taste:

  1. Aromatic: Vermouth is known for its aromatic qualities. It often has a complex and herbal aroma, with notes of various botanicals and spices. Depending on the specific blend of botanicals used, you may detect scents of herbs like wormwood, chamomile, or thyme, as well as hints of citrus, flowers, or warm spices.
  2. Bitterness: It can have a distinct bitterness, especially in dry vermouth varieties. This bitterness is often balanced with other flavors and can contribute to the overall complexity and depth of the taste. The level of bitterness can vary, ranging from subtle to more pronounced, depending on the specific variety and its intended style.
  3. Sweetness (in sweet vermouth): In contrast to dry vermouth, sweet vermouth has a noticeable sweetness. The sweetness can range from moderately sweet to rich and syrupy, depending on the brand and style. The sweetness in it is often balanced with herbal and bitter flavors, creating a harmonious taste profile.
  4. Herbaceous and Spicy: Vermouth can exhibit herbaceous and spicy characteristics. It may have flavors reminiscent of botanicals, such as herbs, roots, or seeds used in its production. Common herbal and spicy notes found in it can include hints of anise, cinnamon, clove, or ginger, among others.
  5. Wine Undertones: Since vermouth is made from wine as its base, you may also detect some wine-like undertones. The specific wine used can influence the taste, providing elements of fruitiness, acidity, and a hint of grape characteristics.

What is the Difference Between Dry and Sweet Vermouth?

The main difference between dry and sweet vermouth lies in their flavor profiles and levels of sweetness. Here’s a breakdown of the characteristics that distinguish dry and sweet:

Dry Vermouth:
  • Flavor Profile: Dry vermouth has a lighter, crisper, and more herbaceous flavor profile. It is characterized by its dryness and a prominent herbal and botanical presence. The herbs used can include ingredients like wormwood, thyme, rosemary, and citrus peels.
  • Sweetness Level: Dry vermouth has minimal to no sweetness, as it contains a very low amount of residual sugar. The focus is more on the herbal and bitter flavors, with the dryness providing a refreshing quality.
Sweet Vermouth:
  • Flavor Profile: Sweet vermouth, also known as red vermouth or Italian vermouth, has a richer and more pronounced flavor profile compared to dry vermouth. It combines sweetness with a complex blend of herbs, spices, and botanicals. Sweet vermouth often has a fuller body and a more rounded taste.
  • Sweetness Level: As the name suggests, sweet vermouth has a noticeable level of sweetness. It contains a higher amount of residual sugar compared to dry vermouth, which provides a balanced and sweet flavor profile. The sweetness can vary among different brands and styles, ranging from moderately sweet to rich and syrupy.

Does Vermouth Go Bad?

Yes, it can go bad over time. It is a fortified wine that is flavored with various botanicals and herbs. Like other wines, vermouth has a limited shelf life, and its taste and quality can deteriorate over time.

The shelf life of it can vary depending on factors such as the brand, storage conditions, and whether the bottle has been opened or not. Unopened bottles of vermouth can generally last for about 6 to 12 months if stored properly in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperature fluctuations.

Once a bottle of vermouth has been opened, its shelf life decreases significantly. Exposure to oxygen can cause the flavors and aromas to degrade. Generally, opened vermouth can last for about 3 to 6 months, although this can vary depending on the specific circumstances.

To ensure the best quality and flavor, it’s advisable to consume vermouth within a reasonable period after opening and to store it properly. If you notice any signs of spoilage, such as a sour or vinegary smell, a change in color, or an off taste, it’s best to discard it.

How is Vermouth Used?

It is a versatile spirit that can be used in various ways. It is commonly enjoyed as an aperitif, used as a mixer in cocktails, or incorporated into cooking. Here are some popular uses for vermouth:


It is often served on its own, chilled or over ice, as a pre-meal drink. It can be enjoyed straight or with a twist of citrus peel. Vermouth’s herbal and botanical flavors make it a refreshing and flavorful option to stimulate the appetite.


It is an essential ingredient in classic cocktails such as the Martini and the Negroni. It adds depth, complexity, and a hint of sweetness to these drinks. Vermouth can also be used in other cocktails like the Manhattan, the Rob Roy, or the Boulevardier.

Vermouth Spritz

Mixing vermouth with sparkling water or club soda creates a refreshing and low-alcohol cocktail known as a Vermouth Spritz. Garnish it with a slice of citrus or a few fresh herbs for added flavor and presentation.


Vermouth can be used in various culinary applications. It works well in sauces, marinades, and dressings, adding a unique depth of flavor. Vermouth is often used in recipes that call for white wine or dry sherry. It can enhance the taste of seafood, poultry, and vegetables.

Vermouth-infused ingredients

Some people infuse vermouth with herbs, fruits, or spices to create custom flavors. For example, you can make your citrus-infused by steeping citrus peels in it for a few days.

Can Pregnant Women Consume Vermouth?

When it comes to consuming alcohol during pregnancy, it is generally recommended to avoid it altogether or strictly limit its intake. Alcohol can pose risks to the developing fetus, including the potential for birth defects and developmental issues.

It is an alcoholic beverage, typically made by infusing wine with botanicals, herbs, and spices, and it usually has a relatively low alcohol content compared to other spirits.

While vermouth may have a lower alcohol content, it still contains alcohol and the safest course of action during pregnancy is to abstain from consuming it. The developing fetus is particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, and there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

If you have any concerns or questions about your diet during pregnancy, it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider, who can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances.


In conclusion, it is a flavorful and versatile spirit that can be enjoyed in various ways. Whether served as an aperitif, used as a mixer in cocktails, or incorporated into cooking, vermouth adds depth and complexity to drinks and dishes. As with any perishable product, it does have a shelf life, and its quality can deteriorate over time.

It is best to consume vermouth within the recommended timeframe, especially after opening the bottle, to enjoy its optimal flavors and aromas. Vermouth comes in two main types: sweet (red or rosso) and dry (white or bianco), each offering distinct flavor profiles. The choice of it depends on personal preferences and the specific recipe or cocktail being prepared.

Whether sipping it neat, mixing it into classic cocktails, or using it as a flavor-enhancing ingredient in cooking, vermouth adds a touch of sophistication and complexity to the overall drinking and dining experience. Exploring the world of vermouth can lead to discovering new flavors and enjoying a wide range of delightful creations.