Vermouth is a pre-dinner drink made from wine fortified with a spirit that is then flavoured with an infusion of herbs and spices. Some European vermouths have been awarded ‘protected designation of origin’ status.

  • Des fûts de Noilly Prat en cours de vieillissement © Rudolph Simon
  • Americano, cocktail à base de vermouth © Nicholas Sikorski

The main categories of vermouth

Some European vermouths have been awarded ‘protected designation of origin’ status. This means that vermouth from Chambéry can only be made in Savoie, just as vermouth from Turin can only be made in Piedmont.
The two main categories of vermouth emerged from a stringent classification process:

  • ‘sweet’ vermouth is used for Italian vermouths,
  • while ‘dry’ vermouths refers to French vermouths.

This classification system has spread thanks to a number of books on the art of cocktail-making, which simply refer to French or Italian style when conveying the concept of a vermouth being dry or sweet. In both European countries however, manufacturers produced both styles of vermouth very early on. As well as sweet and dry, another vermouth category exists, known as ‘Bianco’ which was introduced to the market by Dolin. Today, vermouth manufacturers also offer ‘semi-sweet’ and ‘semi-dry’ styles.

Vermouth and sugar - a close relationship

In addition to geographical origin, vermouths are classified by their sugar content:

    • Extra Dry/Dry/Secco

      White vermouth contains 18% to 20% ABV, with sugar content of no more than 40g/litre.

    • White/Bianco

      A golden-coloured vermouth with 16% ABV and a sugar content that varies between 100g and 150g/litre.

  • Sweet/Rosso

    Amber vermouth (thanks to the addition of caramel), reaching 15% to 17% ABV with a sugar content equal to or in excess of 150g/litre.

Flavoured vermouth

Very early on, vermouths served as a base that allowed manufacturers to expand their aromatic palettes. Dolin was the first vermouth brand to sell a strawberry-flavoured vermouth called Chamberyzette. Since then, other manufacturers have followed its example, such as the vanilla-flavoured Carpano Antica Formula.