The Bartenders Basic Guide to Vermouth & Amaro
In recent years the shift has been made to low-abc & lighter style of cocktails worldwide. From more stronger shorter drinks that dominated cocktail menu's from 2000 - 2010 the shift is coming with a a trend towards better drinking & a global return to aperitif culture. One of the biggest drivers of this has been the global marketing of the Italian companies of differing vermouths & amaro that are currently having a moment in the global trend. Unless you're born in Italy it can be hard to navigate the confusing world of Vermouth & Amaro. Especially because in the bartending world we often use the term 'bitters' as a reference to cocktail bitters such as Angostura or Peychaud's whilst in the Italian language 'Bitter' referee to a specific type of Amaro. Linguistics aside we've produced this simple & handy guide for bartenders to be able to refer to when required for a guide to the historical category.
Vermouth There are three essential styles of vermouth to know. Sweet (red) vermouth is the most common—it's what's called for in Manhattans, Negronis, and many other cocktails. Dry vermouth is clear in color and is used in Martinis. Bianco vermouth is also clear or slightly golden in color and is sweeter than dry vermouth. Though you might think sweet vermouth uses red grapes, all three styles of vermouth typically use neutral white grapes, such as trebbiano. Red vermouth gets its color from caramelized sugar. In Europe, vermouth production is highly regulated, and while there's no hard and fast rule about which grapes can be used to make it, at least 75% by volume must be wine.
To understand Vermouth we must understand Fortified Wines & the legal definition based on the European Law. Although this law with regards to the production of Vermouth only in the region of Europe I believe it is a very good place to start since Vermouth was originally created in Europe. The EU law states: THE LAW The EU laws for vermouth (note all legal stuff below is based on the EU law, which is not the same as in the US) are here: EEC No 1601/91 and state
- Must be at least 75% wine - Must use artemesia ( of which wormwood is a member) as the main bittering agent [edit: the actual language around it is "the characteristic taste of which is obtained by the use of appropriate derived substances, in particular of the Artemisia species, which must always be used"] - 14.5% - 21% ABVMust be fortified Categories of Aromatized Wine (all have added alcohol and artemesia) are:
- Vermouth - as above - Americano - with gentian as the main bittering agent, and orange peel - Bitter Wine - including Amer Picon. Gentian - Vino Chinato - quinine wine - Vino All'uovo - Marsala and wine-based egg liqueurs like Vuv Geographical Indications for Vermouth Can Be:
Vermouth d Chambery Vermouth di Torino (which uses wormwood from the Piedmont region, and produced and bottled within region) Sugar quantities for vermouth are:
(a) 'extra-dry': in the case of products with a sugar content of less than 80 grams per litre;
(b) 'dry': in the case of products with a sugar content of less than 50 grams per litre;
(c) 'semi-dry': in the case of products with a sugar content of between 50 and 90 grams per litre;
(d) 'semi-sweet': in the case of products with a sugar content of between 90 and 130 grams per litre;
(e) 'sweet': in the case of products with a sugar content of more than 130 grams per litre.