Whether it’s straight, on the rocks or as part of a cocktail that’s shaken, not stirred, vermouth has been adding that hint of sophistication to our glasses since the 19th Century. Now, with lots of new brands being introduced (including several created in the UK) and old favourites being rebranded, there’s never been a better time to enjoy them.
1. Dubonnet: £9, tesco.com
The late Queen Mother’s favourite tipple (she liked it with gin), this full-bodied aperitif was originally concocted by a Parisian chemist as a mean of making quinine more palatable for soldiers in the French Foreign Legion. Now it’s more at home in a cocktail bar or mixed with lemonade or bitter lemon.
2. Marks & Spencer Vermouth Blanc: £10.99 (in store only), £65.94 for a case of six, marksandspencer.com
Exclusive to M&S this French produced and bottled sweet and aromatic vermouth has already won plenty of plaudits for its complex nose and fruity but never cloying taste. Works well by itself or as long drink with soda or tonic.
3. Martini Riserva Speciale Ambrato: £12.25, thewhiskyexchange.com
Any time, any place, anywhere – but with a bit of a twist. This new product from the world-famous label is a golden amber vermouth produced to honour the traditional methods used by the original Martini herbalists. It’s produced using Moscato d’Asti wines to create a honeyed vermouth with a “light-bitter” taste.
4. Cocchi Vermouth di Torino: £23.49, amazon.com
It’s not just just great cars that come out of Turin. Superbly balanced between sweetness and bitterness, this full-flavoured traditional Italian vermouth is made to a family recipe created more than 100 years ago. Enjoy it on its own with ice or in a Manhattan or Martinez cocktail.
5. Chinati Vergano Americano NV: £33, ottolenghi.com
A slight twist on vermouth here with an Italian bitter aperitif from Piemonte that’s known as a “vini aromatizzati” — wines that have had various aromatic ingredients added to them. Produced in small quantities by winemaker Maurice Vergano, it’s worth searching out.
6. Antica Formula Carpano Vermouth: £14 for 37.5ml, waitrose.com
The daddy of them all. The first vermouth ever created in 1786 by Benedetto Carpano and deeply satisfying with rich vanilla taste with notes of spice and dried fruit. Produced in limited quantities and sold in numbered, blown-glass bottles.
7. Aperitivo Cocchi Americano: £19.25, thewhiskyexchange.com
One for the mixologists. Made from the same recipe since 1891, this bittersweet orange honey and citrus aperitif that has bagloads of flavours to spare is what you need for making James Bond’s legendary Vesper Martini. Or you can forsake the 007 life and simply have it chilled with a twist of orange and a splash of soda.
8. Sacred Spiced English Vermouth: £32.95, sacredspiritscompany.com
A beautifully rich, dark vermouth created using English organic wormwood from Somerset, thyme from the New Forest and English wine from the three Choirs Vineyard in Gloucestershire. It just shows that anything the Italians do, we can do just all well, if not better. Savour it on the rocks or over ice with a single malt.
9. Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry: £10.49, waitrose.com
A refined and elegant vermouth from the Alps that’s noticeably lighter and less pungent than many of its competitors, this has been made to the same recipe since 1821. Dry floral notes and subtle and balanced taste make this one to enjoy by itself with a twist of citrus.
10. The Collector Vermouth: £33.50, gerrys.uk.com
Let’s fly the flag here. This is an English vermouth from the forward-thinking folk of the Ethicurean restaurant in Somerset that includes 20 botanicals grown in their walled garden including bay, rosemary, sage, wormwood and yarrow flavoured with handmade caramel. Beautifully smooth and tangy, it’s best served on ice with a bay leaf or as an extra-special dessert wine.
11. Carpano Classico: £16.37, drinkfinder.co.uk
Turin must have been a very busy town, and a merry one, in the late 18th century. This is another 1786 creation from Benedetto Carpano with oodles of herbal flavourings and a taste that’s not quite as full on as the Antica Carpano. Enjoy it with orange rind on ice or add a little gin.
12. Punt e Mes: £11.76, thedrinkshop.com
A strong and distinctive rosso Italian vermouth, the name of which comes from the local Piedmontese for “a point and a half” — that is a “point” of sweetness balanced by half a point of bitterness. Great as the basis for making such classic cocktails as Negroni or Americanos it can also be enjoyed with fruit juices or tonic water
13. Riserva Carlo Alberto Vermut Extra Dry: £21.95, thewhiskyexchange.com
This is a golden and extra dry Italian vermouth with a herbal and trenchant taste that’s not for the faint-hearted but rewards those who like to linger over their glass. Flavoured with 21 botanicals including berries, spice, flowers and fruit named after the king who came up with the recipe in the 1800s.
14. Cinzano 1757: £20.20, amazon.co.uk
A premium vermouth bottled to pay homage to Giovanni Giacomo Cinzano and Carlo Stefano Cinzano who founded the famous company in Turin on that date. Intensely rich with a butter velvet finish, it comes in numbered bottles and won’t be around for long, so get it while you can.
15. RinQuinQuin: £17.46, thedrinkshop.com
Despite sounding like a canine film star (the name actually means “invigorating drink”), this smooth but intense peach-based aperitif from Provence is one to be enjoyed on its own with ice or as a slightly exotic flavouring for a fresh fruit salad that contains berries.