The Wheel of Spirits: Episode Vermouth

In March we were all about that Vermouth.

It’s a wonderful drink, so it’s hard to believe that Germans use the expression ‘Wermutstropfen’ (a drop of Vermouth) to describe the bitter side of things. Well, one of the ingredients of Vermouth, wormwood, is pretty bitter … so we’ll leave it at that.

Despite the name, the main ingredient of the drink by the name of Vermouth is wine, which is infused with herbs and spices. This spiced wine is first sweetened with sugar and then ‘fortified’ with ethyl alcohol to bring it up to the desired drinking strength of between 14.5 to 21.9 Vol%. Such fortified wines have been around for thousands of years. Like back when the pyramids were built. Or in the 4th century BC, when Hippocrates – a confessed Vermouth fan – swore the oath that still bears his name.

The founding father of today’s Vermouth culture is considered to be an Italian by the name of Antonio Benedetto Carpano. The herb ‘Artemisia absinthium’, better known as common wormwood or absinthe, is what gives the drink its unique flavour. At the end of the 18th century, he began selling the drink as an alternative to red wine in the city of Turin and, only a short time later, his shop was open 24/7. What then happened was clear: Vermouth began its downward spiral from the tables of the aristocracy into the rough beakers of thirsty vagrants, down-and-outs and tramps – in fact, even today, one German word for ‘winos’ is ‘Wermutbrüder’, the ‘Vermouth Brotherhood’. The high and mighty connoisseurs naturally distanced themselves from the drink and, in the early 20th century, the image of Vermouth hit rock-bottom.

The cinema finally rescued its reputation with a Vermouth cocktail by the name of the Vesper Martini – invented and named by Bond author Ian Fleming in the 1953 novel Casino Royale, it became the signature drink of agent ‘007’ in the movies. Three measures of gin, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet and a twist of lemon – shaken, of course, not stirred. Vermouth was back.

Since the 2000s, we have seen a true renaissance of Vermouth: it is now back in production around the globe, there are numerous small brands, some of which are made in Germany. In short: Vermouth is back – and playing a starring role in the world of cocktails. We have picked out two recipes just for you:

The Americano with Thomas Henry Soda Water and the Bloomy Cup with Thomas Henry Cherry Blossom Tonic

Now you know a bit more about the origin of Vermouth and maybe you are now in the mood to mix yourself a Vermouth-based drink. Ciao und Cheers!


Texted by Philipp Mogwitz.