Vermouth tasting – a bittersweet symphony

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Vermouth has long been the secret weapon of a good bartender. They know that a dash can transform a cocktail, adding complexity and depth, as well as a refreshing, bittersweet character. Vermouth’s other strong suit is its versatility – as well as a blending partner in a cocktail, it can be served on the rocks or mixed into a long drink with great effect.

Five facts about vermouth

  • vermouth is an aromatised fortified wine, made by adding botanicals to wine which has had spirit added to it
  • it can be red, white or rosé
  • it must have an ABV of between 14.5% and 22% ABV (24% if outside Europe)
  • French vermouth is generally dry; Italian versions are usually sweeter
  • once opened, a bottle of vermouth will stay fresh for between eight and 10 weeks.
Vermouth line-up

Five great vermouths that range from lean and dry to rich and concentrated

We opened a few bottles of vermouth at TWE HQ to compare styles. We started with a bottle from France:


Very clean and fresh, with aromas of lemon and grapefruit, along with weightier notes of almond, orange peel and Christmas-cake spices

We then moved to Italy with Aperitivo Cocchi Americano, the closest thing to the now-discontinued Kina Lillet, an essential part of James Bond’s Vesper Martini cocktail.


Great balance between rich cherry and peach aromas and clean, green herbal notes. Quite weighty, with ripe-fruit notes.

Our third vermouth was a totally different style. Aussie brand Regal Rogue offers a fresh take on vermouth, with bold, bright flavours. The first we tried was the Daring Dry, which would work brilliantly in a Dirty Martini.


Bracingly clean maritime notes with lemon, flint and sea spray, plus green olives and herbs on the palate. Lovely balance between citrus and savoury.

We stayed with Regal Rogue for our next vermouth, but this time we entered rosé territory.


Delightfully fresh, perfumed aromas of ripe strawberries and raspberries. Sweeter on the palate, with candied cherries, strawberries and candy floss, lifted by floral notes of fresh roses.

We ended with the daddy of vermouths – Antica Formula. Long a favourite of bartenders, this is a dark, brooding vermouth that adds deep complexity to cocktails and mixed drinks.


Big, big aromas of dark chocolate, cherries, almonds and marzipan, with huge concentration of flavour on the palate – bitter chocolate, coffee, raisins and fruit crumble. This is a big beast that will take your cocktails to the next level, no doubt about it.

This tasting demonstrated vermouth’s great versatility – it can change the style of your drink at a stroke, no matter if you want to make it fruitier, dryer, richer or sweeter – so a bottle or two at home will make an excellent addition to your drinks cupboard. You can see all the vermouths sold at The Whisky Exchange here – get mixing!

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