Many of us know vermouth as an ingredient in cocktails, but did you know that it is technically wine? That's right! Vermouth is an aromatized, fortified wine that is flavored with botanicals such as citrus peel, star anise, basil, thyme, and wormwood. Vermouth's name is derived from “wermwut,” the German word for “wormwood.” It's a close cousin of Hungarian and German wormwood-infused wines; herbs like wormwood gives vermouth its signature bitter flavor.
Because vermouth is wine, you can (and should) treat it as such. Open bottles can start going bad in about four to six weeks. Avoid keeping it in the liquor cabinet with the bourbon and instead store in a refrigerator. You can also cook with vermouth as you would wine — just keep in mind it’ll give a stronger flavor! And of course, like wine, you can enjoy it on its own.
While vermouth is a drink typically enjoyed in a glass today, it was originally used as a medicine.
A HISTORY OF HEALING
As a saying among herbalists goes: "What is bitter to the tongue is sweet to the stomach." Vermouth's claim to fame may be as the MVP of the most famous cocktails, but its bitter nature was historically used for medicinal purposes. According to ancient Greek history, in fact, early incarnations of vermouth were used by legendary physician Hippocrates, who prescribed it for a range of ailments including jaundice, rheumatism, and anemia. We're feeling a bit weak...
Wormwood, which causes vermouth to be bitter, gets its name from being an vermifuge herb, which are used to destroy and rid the body of intestinal worms and parasites! Wormwood is also a cholagogue, which is often used to treat liver and gallbladder problems. As if that wasn't enough, it is also a febrifuge, which are substances used to reduce fever, and an emmenagogue, which improves fertility.
A bit of a cure-all, indeed!
AN AMAZING APERITIVO
In the 1800s, imbibers around the globe were in for a pleasant surprise when "father of American mixology" Jerry Thomas popularized the practice of creating mixed alcoholic drinks. Thanks to Thomas, vermouth is a key ingredient in several of today's classic cocktails, including the Manhattan, the Americano, and the famed Negroni. Traditionally though, vermouth as a beverage was enjoyed on its own. Try it da solo to explore the various flavor combinations and see if you can pick out the infused botanicals that give each vermouth its own distinct taste.
Whether on its own or in a cocktail, vermouth makes for an amazing aperitivo! Think of aperitivo as the Italian equivalent to America's happy hour. While happy hour for an American may involve downing a few drinks with friends before 7 p.m. to get the biggest bang for your buck, aperitivo is a more relaxed ritual to be enjoyed around a table of loved ones before a meal. Derived from the Latin word aperire, meaning "to open," the aperitivo is meant to stimulate the appetite. More scientifically, it gets those gastrointestinal juices churning, signaling the brain that it's time to eat!
THE TASTE OF TORINO
While some believe it originated in Spain or France, historical documents show that the modern version of vermouth — made with botanical ingredients in addition to wormword — originated in northern Italy, specifically Torino (the capital city of Piemonte) in the 16th century! Eataly's connection to Torino runs deep: our first store was opened in an abandoned vermouth factory in Torino!