Learn with A Bar Above


Photo by Rob Ireton/ CC BY


Why is Vermouth in the “Bitters” chapter? While it could definitely be grouped in the last module with “alcohols”, we felt it was appropriate to include vermouths here because of their bittering effect on cocktails. Considering that the word “Vermouth” is actually a translation of the German wormwood, it should be no surprise that it packs a bitter punch! Most Vermouth is made with white wine.

What is it?:

Vermouth is wine that has been infused with herbs, roots and / or spices, and then fortified with added spirits to prevent oxidation. Due to its lower alcohol content, an open bottle of Vermouth should always be stored inside a refrigerator. With a typical alcohol content of 13-24%, they simply aren’t alcoholic enough to be shelf stable.

Vermouths & Similar Products:

  • Sweet & Dry Vermouth: The most common types you will encounter behind the bar
  • Quinquina & Americano: Relatives of the Vermouth family that use different bittering agents.

Sweet vs. Dry Vermouth

P3 Vermouth

What’s the Difference Between Dry & Sweet Vermouth?

Dry Vermouth

  • Made with less sugar; less sweet
  • More focused on botanicals

Sweet Vermouth

  • Made with more sugar, more sweet
  • More focused on spice

Common Dry Vermouths:

Vermouth Tasting Use in Cocktails
Martini Extra Dry Sweet, but deliciously herbal; a very classic example by all accounts. Great vermouth to use in a classic gin martini
Cinzano Similar to the Martini Rosso, but with more floral and vanilla notes; it was also more bitter. Good dry vermouth to use when using a fuller bodied gin like an Old tom, or a barrel aged gin

Common Sweet Vermouths:

Vermouth Tasting Use in Cocktails
Carpano Punt E Mes Rather bitter, with strong Gentian notes. Complex. Use this vermouth when pairing it with a rich, sweeter bourbon.
Cocchi Vermouth di Torino Rustic and leathery. Some tobacco / seed notes. Use this vermouth when you want to accentuate a spirits rustic qualities, like Armagnac in a Saratoga.
Vya Sweet Vermouth Fresh nose with woody elements and a faint hint of coconut. Herbal. When you want the spice element to really shine through- Great vermouth to pair with bourbon or rye
Carpano Antica Nose of vanilla and orange peel. Complex with herbal bitterness and notes of bread, chocolate and a certain saltiness A rich, dense vermouth that pairs well with a spicy rye whiskey
Noilly Prat Rouge Slightly malty, soft and sweet. Herbal and well-rounded. Great dry vermouth to use in a whiskey or Genever based drinks like The Brooklyn Cocktail


Photo by akaitori/ CC BY

Quinquinas & Americanos

Quinquinas & Americanos are a type of aperitif wines. They aren’t actually Vermouths, but are extremely similar so it’s worth mentioning them here. They differ in the type of bittering agents used.

  • Quinquinas: Typically the bittering agent is chincona bark, which contains quinine.
  • Americanos: Typically the bittering agent is gentian.
Aperitif: Tasting Use in Cocktails
Cocchi Americano Bright gentian bitterness mixed with essence of orange oil. Lingering sweet and bitter flavor. Use this in place of lillet in classic cocktails, as this is the closest to kina lillet after lillet was reformulated in the 1980’s.
Lillet Blanc Honey citrus taste with balanced sweetness. Slight herbal flavor and touch of bitterness on the finish. Palatable straight and sometimes consumed in a wine glass with ice and orange peel