Sweet or dry, vermouth is rarely considered more than a secondary element in classic drinks like a martini or Manhattan, but the aromatic, fortified wine is now being featured more prominently in American cocktails.
“The first time I encountered vermouth to drink on its own was in Barcelona,” says Leo Robitschek, the bar manager at NoMad, Eleven Madison Park chef Daniel Humm’s newest restaurant in New York City. “They have vermouth on tap. It’s what a lot of people drink.” A far cry from astringent, mass-produced vermouths, European vermouths and new craft vermouths being produced in the US are herbaceous and complex.
“Vermouth is a very versatile ingredient,” Robitschek says. “I like to use a Mr. Potato Head method when creating cocktails: There’s a bitter slot, there’s a sweet slot, there’s an alcohol slot...What’s interesting about vermouth is that it fills a few of those.”