Cocktails To Make You Love Vermouth Again

Vermouth is vermouth, right? I’m as guilty as the next person of picking up either a bottle of Martini or the cheapest brand of vermouth in the supermarket for my cocktails without giving it a thought, but Vermo has changed my perception entirely.

The result of two friends living in Barcelona falling in love with vermouth, Ettore and Jorge worked to create a modern, high-quality version of the classic fortified wine that wouldn’t be out of place in any modern bar or drinks cabinet.

You might only be using a small amount of vermouth in a cocktail, but the quality and depth of the drink make a difference. Vermo has citrus aroma and taste, with a hint of ginger in there too. Spices mix together, with notes of mint and coriander, to create a flavour with a depth that’s rounded off by top notes of vanilla and cinnamon. Despite the sweetness, there’s a balancing bitter finish to the vermouth that works perfectly in cocktails.

As it works so well in a cocktail, here are five of the best to make at home this winter…

The Negroni

It’s claimed that this vermouth aperitif was created in Florence, Italy, in around 1919, the story being that Count Camillo Negroni asked the bartender at Caffe Casoni to liven up one of his favourite cocktails. That cocktail was the Americano, a mix of sweet vermouth and Campari topped up with soda water. Replacing the soda water with gin gave us the modern classic that’s enjoying a renaissance now.

  • 1 part Campari
  • 1 part gin
  • 1 part sweet red vermouth

Add all ingredients over ice and stir – don’t shake! The finished drink should be served over ice in an old fashioned glass and garnished with orange peel.

Vermouth Cocktails - Negroni
The Boulevardier

This cocktail was reportedly created in Paris, around 1927, for Erskine Gwynne, the socialite nephew of railway tycoon and businessman, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. Made by Harry McElhone, it was named after the monthly magazine edited by Gwynne, The Boulevardier.

  • 1½ parts Bourbon
  • 1 part sweet red vermouth
  • 1 part Campari
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Add all ingredients with ice and stir. Strain over ice into an old fashioned glass, adding an orange peel garnish.

The Martinez

The Martinez was developed during the 1850s, and that’s about all we know. Early stories of its creation feature a bartender Jerry Thomas, who is widely considered to be “the father of American mixology,” and another named Julio Richelieu from Martinez, California. Thomas published a book of cocktail recipes in 1887 which included a Martinez, but the lack of formal records means that it is far from accepted as sole creation.

A few years before, O.H. Byron had released a guide which contained a recipe for the Martinez, but his version was more or less a Manhattan made with whisky rather than gin. Some sources call for the use of Curaçao, while others state that Maraschino should be used, and the resulting drink is likely to have been the precursor to what we know as the Martini.

All do seem now to agree on both gin and sweet red vermouth in the cocktails, including the International Bartenders Association which uses the Martinez recipe below in its annual World Cocktail Competition.

  • 1 part London Dry gin
  • 1 part sweet red vermouth
  • 1 bar spoon maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes of orange bitters

Add all ingredients with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lemon peel. The Martinez is served straight up, or without ice.

The Man O’War

Named after one of the greatest Kentucky racehorses of all time, Man O’War won 20 of the 21 races he entered during his career which began just after the first World War. In 1920 he was named, alongside baseball player Babe Ruth, as The New York Times outstanding athlete of the year. The creation of the cocktail isn’t attributed to a specific mixologist, but given the Kentucky heritage, there is a school of thought which suggests it should only be made using Kentucky Bourbon.

  • 2 parts Bourbon
  • 1 part orange curaçao or triple sec
  • ½ part sweet red vermouth
  • ½ part freshly squeezed lemon juice
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Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Serve straight up with a garnish of lemon peel and a maraschino cherry.

Vermouth Cocktails - Man O'War
The Manhattan

The origin of the Manhattan cocktail is not entirely clear; the most popular story is that the cocktail was created by Dr Ian Marshall in the mid-1870s, with the name coming from The Manhattan Club in New York. The drink was conceived there for a banquet being hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston Churchill, in honour of Samuel J Tilden, the New York governor.

The story does fall apart a little, as Lady Churchill was in Paris during this period, about to give birth to her first son. Whatever the roots of the Manhattan are, it remains a world-famous cocktail, as popular today as it was at the turn of the century.

  • 2 parts Rye whisky
  • 1 part sweet red vermouth
  • 1 bar spoon of maraschino cherry syrup (from the cherry jar)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir the ingredients together with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Serve straight up with a twist of lemon peel and a maraschino cherry.


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Phil Huff

Phil Huff has been writing for national newspapers, magazines, regional titles and countless websites since 2003. Specialising in travel and the automotive world, Phil is happiest when exploring foreign lands in foreign cars.