Old meets new

30 May, 2017


Duff also sees lower abv as a trend that can only be good for vermouth. “Even a Negroni is lower in alcohol than a Manhattan - but no less a serious cocktail, so it gives a drinker the very best of both worlds.

“In effect a vermouth is already a pre-mixed cocktail-in-a-bottle, and while I don’t see it growing much as a trend, drinking vermouth straight, or over a sphere of ice, is delightful.

“Low-alcohol cocktails, where you either swap the proportions of the strong alcohol and the vermouth, or use the vermouth as the base instead of hard liquor, are growing in popularity, driven by their deliciousness, sessionability, and very high profit margins for a bar. As one beverage director confided in me: ‘Two shots of vermouth is always going to give me a better GP than two shots of whiskey.’”

The food movement and aperitif culture also get some credit, with Ward saying today’s consumers have an appetite for discovery when it comes to flavours. “What’s generating the spread of vermouth is the food movement and a curiosity of taste. The UK is a hybrid of multiple cultures. When we do a masterclass we educate on what the flavours are but emphasise that taste is as unique as a fingerprint. Education around flavours has evolved.”

Martini’s Vazquez concurs: “Globally as a trend we will see a change in the way consumers eat and drink. They are becoming more Italian, eating and drinking well. It’s a fluid occasion. Vermouth is sessionable and refreshing so lends itself perfectly to this.”

And how is until-recently unfashionable vermouth targeting that holy grail of drinks audiences, the millennial consumer?

Duff responds: “Classic vermouth houses such as Martini have responded by making vermouths with a stronger influence of the base wines, inspired by the likes of modern brands such as La Quintinye (a Pineau-des-Charentes base) and Imbue (a Pinot Noir base). This gels very much with millennials’ desire for clean flavours and fundamental tastes, without masking or concealing with the use of flavourings layered over an industrial-wine base, which is the default.

“Vermouths being made specifically to be used in cocktails are a real game-changer and, while a lot of the innovation out there results in vermouth I’d rather not drink myself, all that innovation taken as a whole is bringing vermouth to some very new and exciting places.”

But might some of those places prove too far flung for consumers or were the lessons really learned from vodka’s mistakes? “It’s already happening that it might be going too far with aromatics,” says Ward. “You need to drive home one thing consistently before it sinks in. As a brand we have to get singular with our positioning. People need to understand the foundation before you can get to the funky twist.”

Given that vermouth can contain anything from 20 to 40 botanicals, producing flavours ranging from savoury and earthy to citrus, spice and tropical fruit, there’s surely plenty of opportunity for it to go horribly wrong. but, for now, there’s no rush to start importing that rama lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong.

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