A key ingredient in many classic cocktails, including the spicy Negroni and the timeless martini, vermouth is often underrated as a drink. However, Dawn Davies, head buyer at The Whiskey Exchange, believes this is changing, with sales up 38% on last year:
“We believe the recent lockdowns have encouraged more home cocktail experimentation. As bars and restaurants return to normal, vermouth’s popularity is unlikely to slow as more people discover why it’s so delicious.”
The best vermouth you can buy 2021
What is vermouth?
Vermouth is a fortified, flavored wine (not alcohol!), flavored with an array of herbs, botanicals, and spices—think wormwood, orange, allspice, cardamom, cloves, coriander, and rosemary.
It can be white (bianco) or red (rosso), sweet or dry, but most red vermouths are sweet. For Negronis, you choose red vermouth, while the classic James Bond martini calls for white vermouth. In short, they are not the same.
Should you refrigerate vermouth?
Vermouth is a product that you want to drink fresh, after opening it you should refrigerate it and use it within a few months. We don’t want to see it gathering dust at the back of the drinks cabinet, and with such an exciting new wave of brands entering the market, we’re sure that won’t happen.
What can I do with vermouth?
You’ll usually find it as an aperitif, perhaps with simple foods like bread, nuts, and tapas. And you don’t have to be a mixologist to enjoy it, vermouth is a delicious booze, or splash the tonic over lots of ice (perhaps with a lemon or orange wedge) — making it just as accessible. As your favorite G&T, served at its simplest!
How do we test?
To find the best vermouth, the Good Housekeeping Institute’s panel of 10 WSET-trained experts and consumers tried 20 white, red and rosé bottles from leading supermarkets and major brands. Each was tasted blind, with the whites chilled and the reds served at room temperature, to prevent bias and to be thorough. They were looking for an interesting array of botanicals that would work well in multiple functions.
These top-rated vermouths start at just £5.75 a bottle.
The best red vermouth
Gonzalez Byass Vermouth La Copa Red 75cl
Part of the González Byas portfolio (he’s also responsible for Spanish favorites Tio Pepe sherry, Beronia Rioja and Vilarnau cava), this red vermouth has been recreated from a 19th-century recipe. It’s made with a blend of nutty oloroso and sweet cherries, and our panel found it to be impressively complex, herbal and well-suited to cocktails.
The best white vermouth
Lillet Blanc 75cl
The winning white vermouth is a knockout on the nose, with pronounced fruit and herbal notes – particularly dried pineapple, cardamom and lemongrass. It is aged in oak for six months, giving it a semi-sweet dessert wine that goes well with the Comte wedge.
The best English vermouth
Asterley Bros Estate English Vermouth 50cl
Made from English-grown pinot noir grapes and infused with 31 botanicals, including orange and rosemary, this sweet, red Italian vermouth makes a great winter treat with mince pies. Besides being delicious over ice with an orange wedge, it makes a great negroni.
Best with tapas
El-Bandarra red aperitif 1l
We’d only buy this for a fun bottle, but this smooth vermouth is the perfect aperitif to serve with tapas. However, it’s also delicious in the winter months, with a rich, deep flavor full of sweet tangerine and festive cinnamon.
The best Australian vermouth
Regal Rogue Bold Red Vermouth 50cl
Made from organic Aussie shiraz and chardonnay grapes, Regal Rogue has quickly become popular with bartenders and home mixologists for its bold, spicy quality. Bitter and sweet, with layers of dark fruit and high acidity, it reminded me of some light port.
The best traditional Italian vermouth
Starlino Rosso Hotel Italian Vermouth 75cl
If you’re looking for a traditional Italian vermouth, look no further. Hotel Starlino is rested in ex-bourbon barrels, adding a touch of vanilla and spice to the mix. Just rightly spicy and herbal with notes of thyme, fennel and citrus peel, our panel had an earthy, complex aroma.
The best supermarket red vermouth
Collaborative Rosso Vermouth 1 l
New to vermouth? Before splashing out on a branded bottle, test the waters with the Co-op’s cheap Italian fortified wine. It’s not quite as intense as others we’ve tried, making it the perfect everyday vermouth for cocktails that benefit from a lingering woody finish, like a rye-based Manhattan.
The best supermarket white vermouth
Lidl Romanetti Vermouth Bianco 1l
When it comes to inexpensive white vermouth, Lidl’s offering makes a great aperitif, whether you choose to drink it neat, over ice or with tonic. It’s full of sweet citrus – sweet orange peel and orange blossom – with a light bitterness on the finish. Summer in glass!
Best for dessert wine lovers
Holy English Amber Vermouth 50cl
Lovers of sweet and sophisticated Tokaji wine will enjoy the sweet aroma of Sacred’s London-made vermouth. The roasty acidity cuts through the rich dried fruit, orange, burnt caramel and spice – many commented that it tasted like Christmas cake.
The best budget red vermouth
Tesco Vermouth Rosso 1l
Our best budget buy has a wintery flavor, perfectly toeing the line between sweet candied fruit and spicy woody notes. Roasted cloves and wormwood pair perfectly with hints of caramel, orange, ginger and cinnamon, making it a bonfire party staple.
The best stable vermouth
Dirty Cascara Vermouth 50cl
As the name suggests, the Recycled range takes waste materials from other areas of the supply chain and reuses them in different spirits. This vermouth uses cascara — billions of tons of which are thrown away to produce coffee — which happily gives this fruity wine its unique roasted flavor.
Best for Negronis
London Vermouth Company #2 Camilla Red Vermouth 50cl
Another home-grown vermouth, this time made with bacchus grapes from the South Downs, Kentish gamay and a splash of ruby port. With layers of tangy and sweet citrus, along with a hint of smoke, this is a natural Negroni maker.
The best budget white vermouth
Sainsbury’s Vermouth Bianco 1L
Despite being our best budget white vermouth, the panel chose a very sophisticated botanical collection here, including lavender, sage and orange peel. Expect distinct notes of fennel, lemon and sweet apple, plenty of acidity and a long crisp finish.
The best all-rounder
Cocci Vermouth of Turin 75cl
Having been making vermouth for over 100 years, Cocci knows a thing or two about Italian fortified wine. Concentrated notes of caramel, butterscotch, vanilla and cinnamon combine with a savory herb note for a great traditional vermouth that will work hard in your drinks cabinet.
Best for a gin martini
Noilly Prat Original Dry 75cl
Clean and clear, this is the expression of a French, dry vermouth. Botanicals include chamomile, nutmeg, and bitter orange, which goes well with a wet martini (which has a higher ratio of vermouth to gin than its dry counterpart).
The best rose vermouth
Belsazar Rose Vermouth 75cl
Berlin-based Belsazar is a modern vermouth brand worth knowing about. Expect notes of caramel, strawberry, mint and white pepper with good acidity and lingering bitterness, offering something completely unique. It can add a whole new complexity to your favorite cocktail and happily replace the traditional red vermouth in your next Negroni.
The best soft vermouth
ASDA Vermouth Rosso 1l
A good option for those who want a little extra sweetness in their cocktail without going overboard with spices, here you can expect some sweet citrus combined with dark chocolate.
Best with whiskey
Morrisons Vermouth Rosso 1l
Although delicate, expect pleasant notes of dried figs, orange peel and cedar on the nose, with a light bitter finish. With a touch of smoke, it makes a good rob-roy cocktail (a mix of scotch whiskey and vermouth).
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