We’re unabashed fans of vermouth, here at Sipsmith – which means we also love a wet Martini. Forget those that feature just a whisper of vermouth: if you’re after complexity and balance, good vermouth is simply a necessity. Read our Martini guide for vermouth lovers to learn more.
And when it comes to selecting the right vermouth for your mixing, we’re lucky to have our very own expert on hand: our head distiller Jared Brown is an expert on this particular subject, having co-authored The Mixellany Guide to Vermouth & Other Aperitifs. His Martini guide is the perfect resource for choosing which vermouth will play the starring role in your cocktail.
The first step to making the perfect Martini is to start with the basics – so, what exactly is vermouth? For many, the only association with the tipple is a dusty, unfashionable bottle languishing on the back bar, whose contents are stale and unappealing to quaff. If that’s your feeling, it may have some merit: vermouth is wine that has been aromatised and fortified, which means it’s been blended with a spirit as well as flavoured with herbs, spices, and other aromatics. That also means that, like wine, it’s a perishable thing – and, as soon as you open it, you’ll have a very limited time to enjoy it. Be sure, then to store your vermouth in the fridge (if you see a bar keeping their vermouth out in the open, it’s time to head out the door). As Jared says, “Vermouth really only lasts two months in the fridge, but that’s still 50 times longer than outside of it.”
These days, bartenders are heralding a new vermouth revival, which means that it’s time to start brushing up on the subject. While there are innumerable vermouths to choose from – some more obscure than others – our JB has a few rules of thumb when it comes to selecting the right bottle. When enjoying a dry vermouth, he looks for complexity that’s finished off with a light and bitter counterpoint (as imparted from the wormwood), while with sweet, or rosso vermouth, he seeks out a balance of sweetness and warm spice from the botanicals.
On to your Martini guide: given how much mythology surrounds the drink, it isn’t always easy to determine which vermouth you should be using – or how much of it. Luckily, JB has some advice. A good ratio for those unsure of their preferences is a 3.5:1 ratio of gin to vermouth – in blind taste tests performed in both 1952 and 2004, that was the ratio that tasters preferred.
When it comes to the brand of vermouth, JB also has a few key recommendations. Martini is an excellent old reliable, and never goes amiss in a, ahem, Martini. Also recommended is Julia Child’s favourite, which is The Reverse Martini: composed of 3:1 vermouth to gin, that blend does well with Noilly Prat in particular. And for the traditionalists, Cinzano is a stellar option.
Not all of JB’s preferred vermouths have historic pedigree, however – for those after a modern Martini, the German-made Belsazar Rosé Vermouth, full of summery, fruit-forward characters, is fantastic with London Dry Gin.
But the key takeaway from JB’s Martini guide: avoid vermouth at your peril. Complex, flavoursome, and beautifully balancing with gin, it’s not only palatable – it’s a Martini essential.