IT’S AN ESSENTIAL IN any bartender’s arsenal and an ingredient in some of the most famous classic cocktails. Vermouth is by no means new, but it’s in resurgence and reaching new consumers far and wide.
“2015 has been the year of a rediscovery of vermouth,” says Riserva Carlo Alberto marketing manager Fabio Torretta. “Born to be sipped by itself, for many years it has been just one of the many ingredients of a cocktail, without too much care about quality and characteristics of the vermouth. What we can see now is a kind of maniacal research of ‘artisanal’ vermouth, rich in flavours and based on old recipes.”
It has taken time, but change has accelerated in the past five years, according to Adam Ford, author of Vermouth: the Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture and founder of Atsby New York vermouth. “Vermouth is still shaking off the past 50 years of people being used to lower-quality vermouths made specifically for mixing.”
He continues: “It has changed radically from being a category consisting of only a handful vermouths made for mixing to literally scores of new craft vermouth producers all over the world releasing various expressions. Even the large companies such as Martini and Cinzano are releasing ‘small batch’ expressions of their vermouths.
“The current trend for vermouth has been a total move away from the larger, industrial, nondescript brands towards the newer craft brands,” Ford says.
Bartenders have played a significant role in this change and cocktail culture is undoubtedly contributing to vermouth consumption. But rather than holding up sales.
Ford adds: “It is the cocktail culture that has been a primary driving force behind the resurgence of vermouth. As I detail in my book, it has been the new wave of professional bartenders and seriously geeky cocktail enthusiasts that have rediscovered the primary role of vermouth in classic cocktails and the role that good, high-quality vermouths can play in cocktails.”
Ludo Miazga, brand guardian of Noilly Prat, says vermouth is a must-have ingredient in a true cocktail bar. He says: “Some of the greatest classic cocktails in the world that are coming back into fashion today – such as the Dry Martini, Vieux-Carré and Manhattan, to name a few – are made with vermouth.”
It seems bartenders are reaching for the books – as well as the bottle – to understand the liquid behind the classic drinks.
“Bartenders, but also consumers, now want to know more about the products, about the wine used for the preparation, the botanicals infused and everything about the history of the company,” says Riserva Carlo Alberto’s Torretta.
A big challenge for the category is its relative obscurity. People know about vermouth – whether it be through Bond or the classics – but education is still required.