Loved all around the world, and an irreplaceable element in numerous well-know cocktails – Manhattan and Negroni above all – vermouth, with its 100% Italian origins, is living a second youth. Paired or unpaired, straight or mixed, and even used in cooking, the liquor – with the mysterious attraction of its history – is touching the hearts of young drinkers.
What is vermouth
Vermouth is an aromatised wine with an alcohol content between 16 and 22%. It must contain at least 75% aromatised and sweetened white wine. The mix of herbs used to flavour it must include wormwood, which is its distinguishing element. Other main herbs it contains are mint, marjoram, chamomile, thyme, coriander, blessed thistle, sage, hyssop, lemon balm, anise, and dittany.
In Grande libro del Vermouth e dei liquori italiani (big book of vermouth and Italian liquors) by Giustino Ballato, the origin of vermouth is attributed to distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano, who drafted the first-ever recipe in 1786 in his small cellar facing Palazzo Reale (the royal palace) in Turin. Carpano chose this name because wermuth is the German term for Artemisia absinthium (wormwood). The correct term in Italian – according to Ballato – is vérmut, but the elegant French word vermouth was preferred, even though – he adds – flipping through historical texts and ancient labels one can bump into the Piedmontese term vèrmot or the Tuscan term vermutte, or even vermuth, warmouth, and wermut.
Vermouth has undergone a successful relaunch operation. The trend is not restricted to Italy, but it involves the global market too, with a 3% annual growth expected until 2021. In 2018 the Istituto del Vermouth (vermouth institute) was born in Turin, with the aim to safeguard the drink’s history and PGI recognition. But the Italian liqueur is not only Made in Piedmont: there are excellent producers in the Emilia-Romagna, Apulia, and Sicily regions as well.