fortified with herbs and roots

Red Vermouth: The Most Famous Aperitif

J.M. Towers

Five of the most interesting and unique brands of vermouth in the international market.

One of the most famous and stimulating drinks in the world is red vermouth. Basically, it is a type of wine fortified with herbs and roots. It is called fortified because more alcohol is added at the end of fermentation, which makes it stronger and much sweeter than other wines.

The term vermouth dates from 1786, when Antonio Benedetto Carpano, a priest from Turin, Italy, named it after the German word, wermouth, meaning wormwood, which is the main aromatic herb for the preparation of vermouth. The recipe for this wonderful elixir includes cloves, licorice root, sage and a number of secret ingredients as each brand maintains its formula in the strictest confidence.

Vermouth is taken, primarily, as an aperitif, and is one of the components in popular cocktails such as the Manhattan, Bellini or Negroni.

Red Vermouth
Photo: Anna Omelchenko / 123RF Stock Photo.

Here are five of the most exciting and unique brands in the international market.

Astby Cake Armadillo
This vermouth, produced in New York, is considered a rare delicacy. It is created in small batches and, instead of processed sugar, it uses a dark caramel spun by the capable hands of skilled craftsmen. Although its preparation requires bark and some herbs like cardamom and quassia, which are traditionally used in red vermouth, the Armadillo Cake features a blend of roots, spices, flowers, seeds and pods you will not find in any other product. Wild celery, Japanese shiitake and nigella, make a difference. Bitter hints are pleasant on the palate, delivering an intense herbal and spicy flavor. It is a complex and differentiated product, perfect to drink alone or accompanied by two ice cubes, three green olives and a slice of bitter orange.

Martini Gold by Dolce & Gabbana

The creativity of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, in partnership with the experienced Martini craftsmen, have created the Martini Gold, a contrast between the aromatic and seductive flavors of the Mediterranean and the mystical character of the aromas in a spice bazaar. It unveils the fragrance of lemon, spicy orange, mystical incense, lush, fresh ginger and cubeb pepper. Martini Gold by Dolce & Gabbana is the result of an extensive tour around the world to find the best ingredients, which are masterfully combined to produce a fashionable and extremely elegant drink.

Carpano Antica Formula
In 1786, Benedetto Carpano created the Antica Formula, giving rise to what we know today as vermouth. It consists of white wine, Muscat Piemonte and rich red wines from southern Italy. Carpano Antica Formula is characterized by the flavor and aroma of carefully selected mountain herbs and a bouquet of vanilla combined with notes of spices and nuts, such as star anise, orange peel and dates. This vermouth is used for refined cocktails, a unique variant for classics like the famous Negroni or the classic American. Its production is limited, and its intense vermilion elixir is protected in glass-blown bottles. The label still looks the same as the original from 1786.

Vya Sweet
In the warm hills of California, this celebrated vermouth was created. It combines roriz red and muscat grapes, perfectly mixed with seventeen handpicked herbs and spices selected by experts. Its botanicals come from the parts of the plants where energy is concentrated: seeds, barks and roots. These components usually have bitter elements that acquire a gentle sweetness in this attractive vermouth. Vya Sweet is ideal for making a delicious Manhattan, a cocktail traditionally made with rye whiskey, but it is equally delicious with bourbon. The Manhattan is made with one part vermouth and three parts whiskey. In 2009 and 2010, Vya Sweet was awarded the Vermouth Trophy at the London International Wine Challenge, the largest wine competition in the world.

Noilly Prat Rouge
The Noilly Prat Rouge is a handcrafted vermouth, beautifully manufactured in the most emblematic and fashionable location for the enjoyment of vermouth: Provence in southern France, a place with a reputable vermouth tradition since the 19th century. Noilly Prat Rouge brings to mind the French elegance we all envision. It is made with the finest wines aged in oak barrels and merges smoothly with aromatic herbs and spices of the highest quality to create the unique flavor that characterizes it, with spicy notes of saffron, clove and cocoa beans. Perfect for cocktails or served alone, chilled, with a hint of orange.

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