Got a bottle of vermouth to use up? Here are all the best vermouth cocktails worth making, using both the sweet red and dry white varieties.
Got a bottle of vermouth to use up? We’ve got answers. This fortified wine is extraordinarily popular in mixed drinks: but it always plays second fiddle. Why? It’s there to add body and complexity to cocktails, which it does in spades. It’s perhaps the best supporting actor of the cocktail world. Here’s more about this famous liquor, and all the best vermouth cocktails worth trying!
What is vermouth?
Vermouth is a fortified wine, or wine with liquor added to stabilize it. It was invented in the 1780’s in Turin, Italy. Today it’s drunk straight as an aperitif, or mixed in cocktails like the Negroni and Manhattan. There are two main types of vermouth: sweet (usually red) and dry (usually white). The dry variety is also used in cooking as you would a white wine.
Vermouth needs to stay cold for storage, so make sure to refrigerate it! It stays good in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
What does vermouth taste like?
The flavor of vermouth depends on the type. Here’s what you can expect from the most common varieties:
Sweet vermouth is subtly sweet and spicy, with a hint of bitter on the finish. The most popular sweet vermouth cocktails are the Negroni, Americano, and Manhattan.
Sweet white and dry red are the most common varieties, but you can also find a gamut of other types: extra dry, sweet white (also called blanc or bianco), amber, and rosé.
How much alcohol is in vermouth? It is 18% ABV (alcohol by volume) depending on the brand, so it has a low alcohol content. Compare it to 40% ABV for spirits like whiskey, rum, vodka and gin.
How much does it cost?
Compared to other liquors, vermouth is affordable. You can buy a mid-priced 750 ml bottle for $10 to $15. It’s easy to find at your liquor store or online. Some good brands of vermouth?We like Martini & Rossi for sweet red, and Dolin for dry white.
And now…the best dry and sweet vermouth cocktails!
Vermouth is part of some of the most famous classic cocktails around, from the Manhattan to the Martini. Here we cover all the classics plus some lesser known vermouth drinks. The list below includes sweet vermouth cocktails with the red variety, and dry with the white variety. Ready to get mixing?
Arguably the best known of all sweet vermouth cocktails is the Manhattan! This sophisticated whiskey drink has a long history and has come back into style. It’s a three ingredient cocktail, but there’s so much going on in one sip! Vanilla, oak and caramel notes from the bourbon, sweet and spicy from the sweet red vermouth, and bitter and herby from the bitters.
And the best known of the dry vermouth cocktails: the Martini! The martini is one of the most iconic cocktails of all time. People have been drinking it for a century. With one sip it announces itself: crisp, cool, searing, and spirit-forward. It’s seeped in tradition, and there’s no cocktail that has the amount of variations: shaken or stirred, gin or vodka, straight or on the rocks.
Here's a drink vying for the best of the best vermouth cocktails award. The Negroni! It’s equal parts refreshing, bitter, and complex: a drink that you’ll want to sit with and savor a while. The bright red of the Campari and sweet vermouth make a stunning jewel-tone statement of a drink. This three ingredient cocktail is easy to make: and memorize, because it uses 1 ounce of each of its three components.
Here’s a light and refreshing classic sweet vermouth cocktail that’s perfect for summer afternoons: the Americano cocktail! It’s the original inspiration for the Negroni and is even better, in our opinion. It’s bitter, complex and bubbly all at once! Starring Campari and sweet vermouth, it’s both sophisticated and carefree at the same time.
Here’s another sweet vermouth cocktail that’s classy and complex: the Martinez! This one is a cousin of the Martini and the Manhattan. To us, it’s an improvement on both! There’s so much going on flavor-wise. It’s balanced and just sweet enough, with notes of cherry and cinnamon, and a little spice at the finish. This cocktail hasn’t caught on in the same way as its cousins: but it absolutely deserves a place at the table.
One of our favorite classic vermouth cocktails in the collection: the Boulevardier. It’s smooth, rich, spicy, bitter, and warm all at once. The vibrant red jewel tone makes it stunning to look at. It’s essentially a Negroni made with whiskey instead of gin. The sweetness of the bourbon perfectly balances the flavor. In fact, you might prefer it to the Negroni. Consider it an improvement!
Ingredients: Bourbon whiskey, sweet red vermouth, Campari
Here’s a punchy three-ingredient vermouth cocktail that’s sleek and sippable: the Old Pal! It’s complex and spirit-forward, a unique drink if you love dry cocktails like a Negroni or a Manhattan. The Old Pal pairs bitter Campari with dry vermouth and fiery rye whiskey into a drink that’s dry, bitter and spicy all at once.
If you love a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, it’s safe to say you’ll love this drink too: the Vieux Carre! This unique classic cocktail comes from New Orleans: the name means “French Quarter” in French. It’s strong and alcohol forward, made with not one but two types of bitters. The complex flavor is ideal for whiskey lovers who love to relax with a slow sipper in hand.
Here’s a sophisticated vermouth cocktail that will have all your friends talking about it: the Hanky Panky! It’s complex and nuanced, with a smooth flavor perfect for sipping. The star here is Fernet-Branca, an Italian bitter that adds an herbal punch. The cocktail is perfectly balanced: a little sweet and a little bitter, which makes it irresistible.
Looking for a unique classic cocktail to impress? Try the Bijou! This drink is named for the colors of glittering jewels of the three liquors that make it up. It's been around for over a century, with a spirit-forward flavor that's crisp and herbaceous. Take one sip and you'll be reminded of a Manhattan. But it's even more interesting, with an herbal undertone to the finish. This one is full of surprises: and all your guests will be impressed.
Looking for a unique vermouth cocktail that will impress everyone? Try the Blood and Sand! It’s one of the few classic cocktails with Scotch from the 1920’s and 30’s. It’s similar to a Manhattan or Martinez, but with with blood orange juice and cherry liqueur. It’s light and semi-sweet, with a balanced and cherry-forward flavor. This one will please even people who are on the fence about Scotch.
Ingredients: Scotch, cherry liqueur, sweet vermouth, blood orange juice
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.