Vermouth 101

I wish there were a website as good as Vermouth 101 for everything in the cocktail world. It’s a simple, well-organized introduction to one of the most common but least understood cocktail ingredients. Here are some of the more enlightening facts I learned.

1. Since Kina Lillet, the form of the French aperitif that contained quinine, is no longer made, substitute Cocchi Americano for it in a Vesper cocktail — the Martini variation made famous by James Bond (2oz gin, 1oz vodka, .5oz Kina Lillet).

2. Because Lillet no longer contains quinine, it is no longer a member of the broader vermouth family. Now it’s more of a dessert wine. Kina Lillet ceased to be in the 1980s.

3. Cocchi Americano (pronounced KOE-kee) and the old Kina Lillet are both cousins of vermouth in categories called quinquina (ken-KEE-nah) and americano (amer meaning “bitter,” not American). The quinquina, as in Kina Lillet, is a class of aperitifs dominated by quinine. Americanos are dominated by gentian and wormwood.

4. The word vermouth comes from the German word for wormwood, which used to be a common ingredient in vermouths.

5. Vermouths, quinquinas, and americanos are all wines that are aromatized (infused with botanicals) and fortified (the alcohol content is boosted with neutral spirits). In America, many (particularly vermouths) are considered nothing more than mixers, while in Europe, they are drank alone or with ice.

6. Carpano Antica, the vermouth that has been hailed as a key ingredient in an exceptional Manhattan, is a vermouth with vanilla added. Despite its old-looking bottle, it came out in 1990; however, it was based on an old recipe.

if you are a cocktail enthusiast, check out Vermouth 101. It will be both educational and inspiring.

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