While a simple rum and coke might cut it at a tailgate, chances are you're looking for something a bit more sophisticated when hosting a dinner party or holiday get-together. Sophisticated doesn't have to mean labor-intensive and complicated, though. In fact, all it takes is keeping your bar cart stocked with one extra ingredient that can be used in a variety of cocktail recipes for a simple but noticeably elevated drink. What's the secret ingredient? Vermouth.
What is Vermouth?
Vermouth is a dry or sweet aperitif wine flavored with aromatic herbs and often used in mixed drinks.
Vermouth refers to a broad range of liqueurs, usually broken down into three categories: dry, sweet, and blanc. Dry vermouth is tart and herbaceous while sweet vermouth is rich and spiced, and blanc is sort of a combination of the two, with slightly citrusy flavors. It's made from 75% wine, grape juice, and alcohol. Fun fact: The Coca-Cola recipe is a nonalcoholic derivative of vermouth. Vermouth ranges from 16% to 22% ABV.
While this liqueur may sound like an unnecessary extra, it's actually considered essential in most classic cocktails, from Manhattans to martinis, negronis, and Americanos. Learn the best ways to use vermouth for a deceivingly easy yet elegant cocktail below.
Here are our favorite vermouth recipes to try next happy hour.
Classic Negroni Sbagliato
Similar to an Americano, negronis are notoriously boozy, so if you like your cocktails strong, flavorful, and moody, this Salt & Wind recipe is for you. It's slightly lighter than the classic version (there's a more indulgent option coming up next, don't worry). You'll need sparkling wine, sweet vermouth, Campari, and an orange twist.
Death Eater Negroni
This unique cocktail recipe from Half Baked Harvest is the perfect thing to make when the sun starts going down earlier. It's made with gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, and pomegranate juice for a boozy but balanced taste. You can also add some activated charcoal for a moody aesthetic and then add an orange peel and pomegranate arils for garnish.
Made in France Benedictine Cocktail
Sugar & Charm shares a new cocktail to add to our list of classics. Fans of the Old Fashioned or Manhattan will fall in love with this blend of cognac, red vermouth, and Benedictine–a liqueur made with 27 herbs and spices from a small French Normandy village. The flavor is smooth like honey with sweet spices and a hint of licorice.
The Old Fashioned got its name because it is literally the oldest cocktail there is, dating back to the early 1800's. It doesn't get any more classic than this. A Couple Cooks shares the time-honored recipe: bourbon or rye whiskey, Angostura bitters, a sugar cube, and water garnished with an orange peel and cherry. Bottoms up.
Americanos are some of the simplest cocktails to make, yet there's just something sophisticated about them. All it takes is a little Campari, sweet vermouth, seltzer water, and an orange slice. It's easy enough, but this Salt & Wind recipe will ensure that you get it right if you're not a seasoned mixologist.
Manhattan with Homemade Maraschino Cherries
Dark, sleek, and chic, the classic Manhattan cocktail will always be in style. Boulder Locavore shares her version using Maker's Mark, sweet vermouth, bitters, and homemade Maraschino Cherries on top.
This handsome cocktail from the 1920's is a variation of the classic Negroni that uses whiskey in place of gin. Choose rye or bourbon whiskey, which A Couple Cooks claims gives it a much "rounder, more balanced flavor". Cheers to that.
Leap Year Cocktail
Boulder Locavore invents an irresistible, citrusy gin martini with Grand Marnier and sweet vermouth. The origin of this cocktail dates back to London's Savoy Hotel in 1928. Fresh lemon juice dials down the sugar factor and creates a more sophisticated flavor profile you'll want to savor.
Pretty sure you've never tried butternut squash infused bourbon so here's your chance. How Sweet Eats opens up our palettes with this sweet, boozy concoction. Once you've infused the bourbon with roasted cinnamon sugar butternut squash, all you have to do is shake it up with some bitters and vermouth and pour it over ice. Drop a cherry in, and drink up.
The Man O' War Cocktail
Here's another photogenic vermouth cocktail recipe from Salt & Wind, and the best news is that it only takes five minutes to put together. Complete with sweet vermouth, an orange liqueur, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and bourbon, it's the perfect thing to warm up on a cold winter evening. If you're entertaining or feel like being fancy, add the brandied cherries and a lemon peel for garnish.
A Couple Cooks introduces us to another spinoff of the classic Negroni that swaps the gin for sparkling wine, such as Prosecco or champagne. Some bubbly makes everything feel more festive so we are fans of this bittersweet, bubbly combination.
St. Germain Negroni
I Am a Food Blog introduces us to the sweeter side of Negroni with this gorgeous cocktail. Simply swap out the classic gin for St. Germain. The light sweetness of it balances the bittnerness of the Campari, while the vermouth ties it all together.
For those who prefer cocktails in the spirit-forward category, A Couple Cooks has just the right drink for you. The Martinez Cocktail is a sophisticated sipper that combines gin, sweet vermouth, Maraschino liqueur, and Angostura bitters for a complex finish with notes of cherry, cinnamon, and a little kick of spice.
Old Pal Cocktail
The Old Pal Cocktail is another option for dry drink fans. Combining just three key ingredients of rye or bourbon whiskey, Campari, and dry vermouth, it's a great option if you want to keep things simple and sleek. A Couple Cooks adds that while it's most traditional with rye whiskey, bourbon can add a nice sweetness.
Extra Dirty Martini
Olive fans, rejoice. This Extra Dirty Martini by How Sweet Eats is just for you. Start with your choice of vodka or gin and shake it up with olive brine and a few drops of dry vermouth. Drop in a skewer with at least three olives to make it extra dirty, and you're good to go.
Mezcal fans will appreciate this concoction from A Couple Cooks. The intense smokiness blends harmoniously with the bitterness of Campari and sweet flavor of vermouth to make a winning spin-off of the classic Negroni.