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17 best vermouths to mix into cocktails or sip straight

Whether your a Negroni fan or a sucker for a Manhattan, these are the aromatic tipples to try

<p>New life is being brought into the traditional vermouth category, with new styles, new ingredients and new regions</p>

New life is being brought into the traditional vermouth category, with new styles, new ingredients and new regions

A key cocktail ingredient, whether your poison is a martini, negroni, Manhattan, or Americano, you won’t get far without a good vermouth. In fact, it’s the resurgence of cocktail culture in recent years that has helped breathe new life into what is a very traditional and storied drink.

The fortified, aromatised wine – flavoured with herbs, botanicals, and spices – is usually consumed as an aperitif, with wormwood considered a key appetite stimulant.

Styles range from extra dry (less than 30g sugar per litre), dry (less than 50g), semi-dry (between 50-90g), semi-sweet (90-130g), blanco or bianco, sweet, amber, rosé or rosata. With such a variation in base wine, and the botanicals used, no two are alike – as you’ll see from our round-up.

Though many Italian, French and Spanish producers have been making classic vermouths to recipes that have remained unchanged for hundreds of years, a number of the teams behind some of the world’s best bars have begun creating their own, with numerous new “craft” brands also emerging.

Read more:

New life is being brought into the traditional vermouth category – we are seeing an emergence of new styles, new ingredients and new regions.

Daniel Schmidt, CEO of Ernest Spirits, and the Bonomy Group, which owns acclaimed bar Little Red Door in Paris says: “Vermouth has received very little attention over the last 200 years.”

He adds that this is changing, saying: “Craft and artisan producers are rethinking the category. We posed to ourselves the question of how to bring vermouth into the 21st century while respecting its multi-layered history. Our answer was a product family that looked at new tastes and sensation using an abundance of botanicals that have never been considered in connection with vermouth.”

In short, it’s an exciting time to explore fortified wine. Combining old and new, here’s our list of the best vermouth you can buy now.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best vermouths for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Antica Formula carpano vermouth, 16.5%, 37.5cl: £14, Ocado.com
  • Best for balanced bitterness – Agora rosso vermouth, 16%, 50cl: £21.95, Masterofmalt.com
  • Best for zesty freshness – Dolin vermouth de Chambéry blanc, 16%, 75cl: £14.95, Thewhiskyexchange.com
  • Best for mixing – Punt e Mes vermouth, 16%, 75cl: £9.06, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for a nightcap – Lustau vermut rojo, 15%, 75cl: £12.99, Waitrosecellar.com
  • Best for mixing simply with tonic – Sacred English amber vermouth, 21.8%, 75cl: £19.95, Masterofmalt.com
  • Best for drinking over ice – Cocchi vermouth di Torino, 16%, 75cl: £18, Waitrosecellar.com
  • Best for a lighter option – Regal Rogue lively white, 16.5%, 50cl: £15.99, Majestic.co.uk
  • Best for summer sipping – Baldoria vermouth ciano, 18%, 75cl: £19.95, Thewhiskyexchange.com
  • Best for new flavours – Otto's Athens vermouth, 17%, 75cl: £19.25, Thewhiskyexchange.com
  • Best for a classic martini – Noilly Prat original dry, 18%, 75cl: £12.49, Thedrinkshop.com
  • Best for food pairing – Martini riserva speciale ambrato, 18%, 75cl: £13.39, Drinksupermarket.com
  • Best for something different – Belsazar rosé vermouth, 17.5%, 75cl: £22.75, Masterofmalt.com
  • Best for depth of flavour – Cinzano 1757 vermouth di Torino rosso, 16%, 1l: £23.95, Thewhiskyexchange.com
  • Best for sundowners – El Bandarra al fresco, 14.5%, 1l: £20, Waitrose.com
  • Best for a warming sip – Padro and Co rojo classico vermouth, 18%, 75cl: £16.95, Worsleyfinewines.co.uk
  • Best for local flavours – The London Vermouth Company, no 1 amber limon, 17%, 50cl: £24, Butlers-winecellar.co.uk

Antica Formula carpano vermouth, 16.5%, 37.5cl

Best: Overall

Not just a classic, this vermouth was created by the “godfather” of vermouth, Antonio Benedetto Carpano, who created the recipe for Antica in 1786. More recently, it was named the best vermouth in the world at the World Vermouth Awards. And as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Using the original recipe, this Italian red vermouth combines white wine, Piedmontese muscatel and wines of southern Italy, with vanilla from Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and Tahiti, alongside other botanicals. The result is vanilla forward and fruity, with beautiful cherry, raisin, chocolate and coffee. Pairing beautifully with the flavours of a good bourbon, it makes for an incredible Manhattan.

Agora rosso vermouth, 16%, 50cl

Best: For balanced bitterness

Launched only last summer, this small-batch English vermouth with Mediterranean influences doesn’t need much more than a slice of orange and some ice to enjoy it. Handmade in Suffolk, it uses a blend of 15 ingredients including rose, cassia bark, star anise, wormwood, mandarin, black pepper, vanilla, cardamom, lavender, dark cherry, goji berry and hibiscus.

Warming and fruity, we love the balance of bittersweet here, followed by a cool menthol edge, a little cherry and blackcurrant, with a long dry finish. It lacks the overt sweetness of many other rosso vermouths, and we love it for it.

Dolin vermouth de Chambéry blanc, 16%, 75cl

Best: For zesty freshness

Made by an independent producer – in fact the only remaining independent vermouth producer left in Chambéry, France – Dolin has been making vermouth since 1821. The range includes a dry and red vermouth. But we love the standout zesty freshness of its white vermouth the most. All of Dolin’s vermouths use Alpine botanicals, befitting of its mountain location.

Wormwood, hyssop, camomile, genepi, chincona bark and rose petals among others, are left to soak in white wine, then sweetened with sugar. The result is a beautifully clean and fresh vermouth with strong, bright citrus, pear, peach and a touch of elderflower. Delicate and elegant – wonderful simply over ice, or try the brand’s traditional serve with sliced strawberry, a splash of soda and a twist.

Punt e Mes vermouth, 16%, 75cl

Best: For mixing

Bartender favourite Punt e Mes traces its roots to the acclaimed carpano distillery in Torino, Italy, and with its distinctive bitter taste profile, it makes an excellent base for a negroni. This red vermouth uses a white wine base and 10 herbs and spices, including quinine. It was created in 1870 when, as the story has it, a stockbroker commiserating a point and a half loss on the market ordered a vermouth with an extra point and a half of bitterness, earning the vermouth its name. Thick, sweet, and warming, there’s clove, orange zest and burnt sugar on the finish. Excellent in cocktails, or serve simply with ice, soda, and a wedge of orange.

Lustau vermut rojo, 15%, 75cl

Best: For a nightcap

There’s something slightly festive about Lustau’s rojo vermut. Made by sherry maker Bodegas Lustau, it won’t surprise you to know that this vermouth is made using a base of, yes, sherry; two to be precise.

Amontillado, with its dry, nutty taste, and Pedro Ximénez, which imparts fig and raisin, are joined by herbs and fruits including sage, coriander seeds, orange peel, gentian and of course, wormwood. Velvety soft, there’s a distinct almond note, warming fruit, finished with a sweet roundedness that fades to a long dry finish. Yum.

Sacred English amber vermouth, 21.8%, 75cl

Best: For mixing simply with tonic

Multi-award winning, this amber vermouth from Sacred was made in partnership with Alessandro Palazzi, of Dukes Hotel – a lauded drinking spot once aptly favoured by Bond author, Ian Fleming himself. This vermouth uses English wine from Three Choirs vineyard in Gloucestershire, and 16 botanicals including distilled gentian root and orris and macerated wormwood and orange peel. Dukes Hotel uses it in its vesper martini. However with its rich, brandy-like aroma and orange and rich fruit notes, we think it’s beautiful simply with tonic water.

Cocchi vermouth di Torino, 16%, 75cl

Best: For drinking over ice

Produced according to the original recipe of Giulio Cocchi, who founded this respected house in 1891, this sweet Italian vermouth is made from moscato wine and a secret blend of botanicals. Fruity and sweet on the nose, there’s candied peel, vanilla and dandelion and burdock. While sipping, you’ll get bitter orange, smoothed out by creamy chocolate, alongside some woody notes and a menthol freshness. Sip and savour over ice, with a twist of lemon.

Regal Rogue lively white, 16.5%, 50cl

Best: For a lighter option

Hailing all the way from Australia, Regal Rogue claims to have 43-64 per cent less sugar than traditional vermouth brands, across its range of white, red, rosé, and dry variants. All are made with native Australian botanicals, sourced from the indigenous communities.

In the case of lively white, that includes lemon myrtle, desert limes, finger limes, thyme, elderflower, lemongrass, grapefruit and chamomile. Smooth, mellow, and bold, there’s some soothing rounded chamomile with a slight citrus burst towards the end, and a long dry finish. Enjoy it in a simple spritz with an elderflower or grapefruit tonic, and a grapefruit and rosemary garnish.

Baldoria vermouth ciano, 18%, 75cl

Best: For summer sipping

From the Paris based Bonomy Group – owners of the Little Red Door bar, as well as Lulu White, and restaurant Bonhomie – comes Baldoria. Created in partnership with Italian distillery argalà in Boves, Italy, the range of vermouths use indigenous foraged botanicals from the surrounding fields, hills, and woodlands with wormwood, rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, beetroot, and mint grown in the distillery’s own garden.

It’s a big range – with a dry, rosso, and bianco already launched, and a rosé, dry rosso, bitter, umami and orange wine vermouth in the works. We love the bianco’s floral spiciness. Though sweet, there’s an underlying earthiness, a touch of clove and lavender and a little pepper and a hint of almond.

While gorgeous when served over ice on a hot afternoon, it’s been designed for use in cocktails too. And not that we judge books by its cover, but this gets marks for its beautiful packaging too, with cork stopper, and beautiful embossed label.

Otto's Athens vermouth, 17%, 75cl

Best: For new flavours

Another product on our list created by one of the world’s best bars is further proof – if it were needed – of vermouth’s integral role in creating great cocktails. This one is delightfully different and distinct in its flavour profile, made using Greek wine from Nemea, and Greek botanicals including oregano, thyme, olive leaves, citrus fruits, alongside vanilla, rose petals, and kumquat. There are notes of blackcurrant and Turkish delight, lemon, and a little saltiness. A delight over ice, or serve with tonic water, and lemon.

Noilly Prat original dry, 18%, 75cl

Best: For a classic martini

This French dry vermouth is a bar staple. The white wine base is left to age in open air for a year before flavouring with a blend of 20 herbs and spices including chamomile, coriander from Morocco, bitter oranges from Tunisia, cardamom from India, and elderflower, before left to age again. With its herbal, almost pine like freshness, it makes for a beautiful dry martini.

Martini riserva speciale ambrato, 18%, 75cl

Best: For food pairing

This Vermouth di Torino made in Piedmont using only Italian wines including Moscato d’Asti, specially selected by master blender, Beppe Musso, is named after its amber hue. Though most vermouths from Martini are made with two different types of wormwood, this uses three local varieties – absinthium, pontica, and vulgaris – grown especially for the company.

While the botanical extracts are rested for over two months in oak vats – a practice once common for making vermouth di Torino, but since largely abandoned. To sip, there’s a bouquet of herbs, wood, and citrus, followed by a little pepper, a little elderflower, something green and almost basil-like, and then moody woody notes with a dollop of honey. Serve simply with tonic and a giant plate of cheese. The bluer, the better.

Belsazar rosé vermouth, 17.5%, 75cl

Best: For something different

Made with German wines, Belsazar set out to redefine vermouth when it launched in 2013. Created in Baden at the edge of the Black Forest mountain range in Germany, Belsazar’s range uses grapes from the Markgräflerland and Kaiserstuhl regions, which are then infused with herbs and finished with a dash of fruit brandy and aged for up to three months. There’s a dry, red, white, and limited edition riesling in the range, but we love the uniqueness of the rosé. Delicious simply over ice, it’s delicately sweet, rounded and fruity, with raspberry, orange, and tangy grapefruit notes. Bring out its bitter finish with a bit of tonic.

Cinzano 1757 vermouth di Torino rosso, 16%, 1l

Best: For depth of flavour

Released in 2015 to pay homage to Cinzano’s founding fathers, Giovanni Giacomo and Carlo Stefano, who began the business in Torino in 1757, this small-batch extension to the brand’s range is a treat. The rosso has woody, spiced notes, with warming spices including clove, nutmeg, a little cinnamon and some stewed fruit, and of course, wormwood. Delectable.

El Bandarra al fresco, 14.5%, 1l

Best: For sundowners

Developed by twins Alex and Albert Virgili at the family-owned Casa Berger winery in Barcelona, Spain, this stylish sipper is lighter in strength than many others on our list, but no less flavoursome. Made to be mixed with tonic, it uses a blend of Grenache wines, with Mediterranean botanicals including rose, citrus and liquorice. Cut through with just a little cooling mint, there’s a slight menthol taste, that veers slightly savoury but then finishes sweet.

Padro and Co rojo classico vermouth, 18%, 75cl

Best: For a warming sip

The Padró family from the tiny village of Bràfim, an hour south of Barcelona, has been producing vermouth for five generations. And this beautiful packaged red vermouth is made using Macabeo and Xarel Lo grapes from the family’s own vines. A secret mix of herbs and spices is added before being rested for between nine and 12 months in sherry casks. Fruity and mature, the strong medicinal clove and currant notes are well balanced with sweet citrus and cinnamon. Warming and satisfying.

The London Vermouth Company, no. 1 amber limon, 17%, 50cl

Best: For local flavours

Like all the best ideas, the concept for the London Vermouth Company came from a night out. Life-long friends Guy Abrahams, Andrew Wealls and Ben Leask have teamed up with drinks maker Camille Hobby Limon, and Masterchef: The Professionals winner, Steven Edwards to create this range of three vermouths.

No.3 (£24.99, Butlers-winecellar.co.uk) uses South Downs Bacchus wines, gooseberries from Essex, and London honey among other British ingredients. But our favourite is the no.1 amber limon, which uses Kentish rhubarb, zesty blood orange and Surrey honey. Sweet, a little bitter, but still pleasingly dry, we love it mixed with ginger ale and sparkling wine.

The verdict: Vermouths

Choosing a favourite vermouth is like choosing your favourite weather – it depends entirely on your mood and where you are. Many of the more characterful and spicy red vermouths on our list make for wonderful summer sippers and spritzes, yet are equally apt for moody late-night cocktails. For a great all-rounder when it comes to flavour, our pick is the incredibly well-priced Antica Formula carpano vermouth.

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