We recently took a look at the most important element of a Manhattan cocktail, whiskey. Here we are going to take a look at the second important ingredient in a Manhattan, sweet vermouth. Without this element, a Manhattan pretty much becomes a whiskey on the rocks. And while I also enjoy a good whiskey or whiskey and water, we are looking at the Manhattan. No Manhattan is complete without vermouth.
What is vermouth?
Vermouth is an aromatized and fortified wine. In it’s essence, it is wine! Originally, vermouth was marketed for medicinal purposes. Being aromatized means that it was flavored with spices, herbs, or other flavoring that was once considered important for health. Fortified wine has had another distilled spirit added, such as sherry or brandy, to kick up the ABV. Additionally, in the beginning, it may have been a way to better preserve or hide the flavors of less than desirable wine.
Sweet Vermouth vs Dry Vermouth
I think the name pretty much says it all. Sweet vermouth becomes sweet vermouth with sugar, as far as I can tell. It seems that there tends to be a color association with sweet vermouth, but I am unable to find the connection. I think as a best guess, you can assume that a darker or redder vermouth is supposed to be sweeter.
Digging into the Manhattan has really given me a bit of a better understanding and appreciation of vermouth. Heck, I might even try and make it! Not only does it serve as something to be mixed in drinks like a Manhattan or Rob Roy, but it can stand on it’s own as a drink.
Take the opportunity to pick up a new brand of vermouth next time you are at the liquor store if you have that chance. I use Martini & Rosso on the regular, but it is worthwhile to explore the different kinds of sweet vermouth that might be available to you. I am going to leave you with a few links that I found interesting and may help better appreciate sweet vermouth
DYI Sweet Vermouth – Make vermouth