Neat, on the Rocks or in a cocktail

The 8 Best Vermouths to Drink in 2018


May 4, 2018 Drinks By

This comprehensive guide to vermouth explores the best bottles to drink neat, on the rocks or in cocktails like Manhattans, Negronis and, of course, martinis.

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Table of Contents
The Short List

  • Best Vermouth for Manhattans: Antica Formula
  • Best Vermouth for Martinis: Noilly Pratt Original Dry
  • Best Vermouth for Negronis: Antique Carpano Punt e Mes
  • Best Dry Vermouth to Drink Neat: Ransom Dry Vermouth
  • Introduction
    How to Drink Vermouth
    Buying Guide

    The Short List

    Best Vermouth for Manhattans: Antica Formula

    Almost embarrassingly rich, this voluptuous formulation is loaded with vanilla beans sourced from far-flung locations like Madagascar and Papua New Guinea. Herb and citrus notes complete this endlessly complex go-to for Manhattans.

    Best Vermouth for Martinis: Noilly Pratt Original Dry

    A stalwart in speed racks before the craft cocktail renaissance, this dry vermouth has green apple notes and bristling tannins that make it perfect for martinis, or served chilled with a lemon twist.

    Best Vermouth for Negronis: Antique Carpano Punt e Mes

    Punt e Mes starts sweet on the palate, has a bitter middle and finishes sweet. It’s a complex vermouth that’s the perfect fit for the bitter-and-sweet negroni, adding further layers and dimensions to each sip.

    Best Dry Vermouth to Drink Neat: Ransom Dry Vermouth

    From a winery in the Willamette Valley, Ransom makes new-world vermouths in an old-world style, using wormwood regional botanicals. The result is a supple, complex vermouth that drinks like a wine, but with continually evolving layers of spice and citrus.

    Introduction

    Vermouths have long been a neglected, even incidental part of cocktails. But as the tsunami of modern craft cocktailery continues, these fortified aromatized wines have emerged from the background, playing more central roles in an ever-broader range of cocktails.

    The drink is neither fish nor fowl in the wine versus spirit categories. To make vermouth, distillers combine neutral spirits (often distilled wines or brandy) with aromatized wines that have been generously infused with botanicals.

    Each brand has its own closely guarded formulations, but there’s a significant overlap with the roots, barks, herbs and citruses found in cocktail bitters. In fact, vermouths could almost be thought of as more wine-like bitters, and ones you could drink on their own (whereas with the high proof cocktail bitters, you’d be in trouble quickly). The array of ingredients commonly used sound like a middle-aged apothecary: gentian, burdock root, hyssop, chamomile, rose petals, the challenging cinchona bark (that’s found in tonics) and wormwood.

    Wormwood, which is distinctively bitter, is at the foundation of classic vermouth formulations. After the U.S. relaxed regulations around wormwood-infused spirits in 2005, a bumper crop of fantastic old-school vermouths previously unavailable here found their way onto the back bars of craft-cocktail spots and better bottle shops.

    Simultaneously, a new wave of American vermouths that play fast and loose with tradition have been popping up from wineries across the country’s winemaking regions and beyond — as is the case with Uncouth Vermouth, perhaps the most gonzo of the domestic vermouth brands (see its Jalapeno Vermouth), which operates out of Red Hook, Brooklyn.

    At the end of the day, an image of an antiquated stodginess lingers around vermouths. But sophisticated entries in the category chip away at that misconception, and a new wave of innovative, fresh takes on classic formulations make this an exciting time as any to explore these aperitif wines.

    How to Drink Vermouth

    As the category of vermouths expands, the ways to drink vermouth grow as well. Increasingly, people are drinking vermouths on the rocks, with a twist or without. As always, though, vermouth plays a pivotal role in classic cocktails like Manhattans, Negronis, americanos and, of course, martinis.

    Then there are cocktails like the Chrysanthemum and the Bamboo that are primarily vermouth. Also on the rise are lower-proof sippers that combine vermouths with soda water, tonics and other mixers like coconut water.

    Table of Contents
    The Short List

  • Best Vermouth for Manhattans: Antica Formula
  • Best Vermouth for Martinis: Noilly Pratt Original Dry
  • Best Vermouth for Negronis: Antique Carpano Punt e Mes
  • Best Dry Vermouth to Drink Neat: Ransom Dry Vermouth
  • Introduction
    How to Drink Vermouth
    Buying Guide

    Buying Guide

    Best Dry Vermouth to Drink Neat: Ransom Dry Vermouth

    From a winery in the Willamette Valley, Ransom makes new-world vermouths in an old-world style, using wormwood regional botanicals. The result is a supple, complex vermouth that drinks like a wine, but with continually evolving layers of spice and citrus.

    Best Sweet Vermouth to Drink on the Rocks: Aixa Vino Vermouth Rosso

    Perfectly balanced between rich baking notes, sweetness and bitterness, this vermouth is great on the rocks (no citrus necessary).

    Best Dry Vermouth to Drink on the Rocks: Dolin Blanc Vermouth de Chambery

    With a menthol-like nose and a delicate palate that’s rounded out by elderflower and bright citrus notes, this elegant Alpine vermouth is perfect on a hot summer afternoon. Try it on ample rocks, topped of with a generous lemon twist.

    Best Vermouth for Martinis: Noilly Pratt Original Dry

    A stalwart in speed racks before the craft cocktail renaissance, this dry vermouth has green apple notes and bristling tannins that make it perfect for martinis, or served chilled with a lemon twist.

    Best Vermouth for Highballs: Lo-Fi Dry Vermouth

    This vermouth from the Napa Valley is smooth and creamy, with a floral nose and herbaceous notes of coriander and anise, and it loves to be mixed in tall, sparkling summer drinks, or what you might call “patio crushers.”

    Best Vermouth for Negronis: Antique Carpano Punt e Mes

    Punt e Mes starts sweet on the palate, has a bitter middle and finishes sweet. It’s a complex vermouth that’s the perfect fit for the bitter-and-sweet negroni, adding further layers and dimensions to each sip.

    Best Vermouth for Manhattans: Antica Formula

    Almost embarrassingly rich, this voluptuous formulation is loaded with vanilla beans sourced from far-flung locations like Madagascar and Papua New Guinea. Herb and citrus notes complete this endlessly complex go-to for Manhattans.

    Table of Contents
    The Short List

  • Best Vermouth for Manhattans: Antica Formula
  • Best Vermouth for Martinis: Noilly Pratt Original Dry
  • Best Vermouth for Negronis: Antique Carpano Punt e Mes
  • Best Dry Vermouth to Drink Neat: Ransom Dry Vermouth
  • Introduction
    How to Drink Vermouth
    Buying Guide

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