Almost every day someone asks me: How it’s vermouth made? What is it?
Today we’ll try to give an answer to such questions.
Vermouth lies in the category of aromatized or fortified wines.
“So, it is a wine!”
“No, not exactly”
As we explained in a previous article: “Vermouth: Origins and Styles“, this drink was originally produced by keeping herbs in infusion into wine. The goal was either to enrich the flavor of the wine or to drink something with the medicinal effects of the herbs infused in it.
Today the main ingredient for vermouth is still wine, in fact wine makes for 75% of a vermouth bottle. The remaining 25% is alcohol, sugar (as well as caramel for sweet vermouth) and a bunch of botanicals.
It doesn’t look too difficult, does it? Actually when it gets to production, things gets a bit trickier, but let’s go step by step.
Everything starts with the wine. Let’s not exaggerate though, otherwise we will accomplish nothing today ;).
Usually white wine is preferred over red, yes, also for sweet vermouth; in this specific product the dark color is due to caramel. Traditionally the wine selected is a Muscat, a wine that can bring already a good amount of sugar and aromas to the blend. Moreover, this grape variety grows in the Piedmont area, the same where vermouth was first crafted.
Some people, on the other hand, prefer to use white wine with neutral taste, in this way the aroma of the spices mix will not be modified by the wine.
Let’s now discuss about the botanicals mix, real core of the vermouth. Each milligram of a spice or herb added to the blend will change the taste of an entire bottle.
As discussed in “Vermouth, 3 things you need to know about the history of your favorite drink” the name of this product comes from the German word for artemis, or absinthe, this herb gives to the drink the characteristic bitter taste we always find in vermouths.
When selecting the botanicals, we are allowed to be as creative as we want and select any herb, spice or fruit we like. Each one will have its impact on the final result.
Here we can see different botanicals effects on vermouth:
Bittering agents: Absinthe, Dittany, gentian, angelica, licorice, Thistle, Cinchona etc.
Fruity: Orange or lemon peel, strawberry, cherry, raspberry, etc.
Exotic flavors: vanilla, juniper, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, star anise, cinnamon, turmeric etc.
Mediterranean flavors: saffron, thyme, rosemary, lemongrass, sage, laurel, elder flowers, chamomile etc.
Some vermouths can also have more than 50 ingredients.
Now that we gathered all the ingredients let’s see in 7 steps how to produce the bottled product following the infographic by Mancino Vermouth.
- Grinding: Botanicals are grinded and ready for the infusion
- Cold extraction: From grinded botanicals we obtain an aromatic liquid extract.
- Mixing: Wine, alcohol, sugar and botanicals extract are mixed.
- Refrigeration: The mix is refrigerated so that solid residual gather on the bottom.
- Filtration: Going through a filter the solid residual is separated from the liquid, that ends up being clearer.
- Aging: The mix ages in barrels for some months.
- Bottling: Cheers!
The alcohol content in the final product will be around 15.5% and 22% and the drink’s taste will be complex but smooth, as if it was already a cocktail by its own. For this reason, is the perfect aperitif drink, to serve chilled, with a lemon or orange peel. You choose!
My name is Ettore Velluto, I’m a vermouth enthusiast, I like extraordinary cocktails and I’m definitely a foodie. I earned my MsC in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at ESADE Business School and at the moment I’m enrolled in the Coursera’s Social Media Marketing course.