Around the world, vermouth is continuing to expand in exciting ways. The category shows increasing personality and flair, in part owing to where it is made.
Spain, for example, capitalizes on the winemaking traditions of Jerez with a spate of Sherry-based vermouths from legacy makers such as Lustau and Gonzàlez Byass, among others. These entrants are complex and delicious enough to sip straight, as well as to add interest to cocktails like the classic Bamboo, made with equal parts Sherry and vermouth.
Meanwhile, California producers are taking strides toward building accessible, quaffable vermouths. Consider offerings from Massican Winery, one of the few vermouth producers to provide vintage years on their bottlings—after all, at the heart of vermouth is wine, albeit aromatized and fortified. And Napa’s Mommenpop has debuted a line of fruity, juicy vermouths that seem to straddle easy-drinking aperitif wines like Lillet and standard vermouths. Each features a pop of sun-soaked California citrus, like Seville orange or grapefruit, yielding a less austere, more approachable style.
Out of Italy, Piedmont’s Cocchi has partnered with the American Bar at London’s Savoy Hotel to construct a bespoke Savoy Dry Vermouth—a key component in what’s regarded as one of the top Martinis in the world. First produced in 2014, for years the vermouth was available only at the five-star hotel. In 2019, that agreement expired, and now Cocchi can produce and sell the vermouth more broadly, though it’s still available in limited quantities.
What’s key to this vermouth is that it has the integrity of a crisp Italian white, laced with just enough Alpine herbs to add a breezy, minty accent. It would sip well alongside fresh crudo as neatly as it shores up a Martini. Frankly, it’s easy to see why the bartenders at the Savoy wanted to keep it for themselves.
González Byass Vermouth La Copa Extra Seco; $25, 96 points. Made with fino Sherry, this pale-straw vermouth greets with a mild, slightly herbaceous aroma. The palate shows golden raisin and ripe pear tinged with basil and sweet cinnamon, with mouthwatering salinity on the finish. It’s delightful to sip straight—especially when chilled—or mix into killer Martinis.
Mommenpop Vin D’Pampe Pamplemousse Vermouth; $22/375 ml, 95 points. This highly quaffable vermouth blends Pinot Noir rosé and grapefruit fortified with American brandy (also made with Pinot Noir). Look for a peachy hue and flavors that suggest both grapefruit-peel bitterness and grapefruit-flesh juiciness. It’s a joy to drink, including in a Martini.
Atxa Red Vermouth; $19, 94 points. Look for a deep ruddy hue. The rich aroma evokes cocoa, walnut and dried fig. The complex palate shows dried cherry and cranberry, finishing slightly sweet with a brush of dusty cocoa and licorice. Ideal for enhancing a Manhattan.
Boisserie Extra Dry Vermouth; $9, 93 points. Brisk and drying, look for a pale straw hue and mild melon aroma coupled with a breezy whiff of mint. The palate offers fleeting honeydew, pear, elderflower and lemon peel, finishing dry. Best Buy.
C. Comoz Vermouth de Chambery Blanc; $17, 93 points. This golden-hued vermouth offers peach nectar and ripe pear aromas. The palate is sweet and honeyed, showing stone fruit and vanilla, finishing moderately long and mildly sweet. Pleasing to sip or mix.
Berto White Vermouth; $15/L, 92 points. Burnished gold in the glass, this bianco-style vermouth has a mild, slightly savory nose and palate. Each sip starts mouthwatering and herbaceous, rounding into caramelized pineapple sweetness on the exhale. Best Buy.
Cinzano Vermouth Extra Dry; $8, 92 points. Look for a mild, earthy aroma with hints of fresh melon and pear. The palate is brisk, crisp and fresh, opening with lemon and a twist of bittersweet grapefruit peel, finishing with a green melon exhale. Best Buy.
Ransom Sweet Vermouth; $18/375 ml, 92 points. The bold, rich aroma is redolent with cocoa, cinnamon, fig jam and strawberry compote. The palate echoes the nose, layering on dried date, walnut and strawberry-rhubarb, winding into a gentle, lingering waft of cocoa and spice.
Vermut Lustau Rosé; $20, 91 points. This is a juicy, easy-drinking newcomer made with a fino Sherry base blended with Moscatel wine and Tintilla de Rota, a fruity red wine from the Jerez region. The end result is a vermouth with a pretty dusty-rose hue and grapefruit-tinged aroma. The palate is quite sweet and juicy, finishing with soothing vanilla. Serve over ice or mixed with tonic water.
Massican Sweet Red Vermouth; $22, 90 points. This garnet-hued Napa Valley vermouth is lean and drinks almost like a dry red wine. Fleeting blackberry and cherry give way to grapefruit peel astringency and plum skin bitterness, leading into coriander and black pepper on the finish. 2018 vintage.