2021 Winter Holiday Vermouth Guide
As I caught up on my backlog of vermouth tasting notes, I thought I'd try something a little different: a buying guide. There are no paid sponsorships or affiliate shenanigans at play here, just some suggestions from a regular vermouth drinker who would like to share his love of vermouth with more folks.
While my individual regional vermouth guides all have recommendations for their respective categories (e.g., Spanish Sweet Red and French Sweet White) and detailed tasting notes for each bottle, this list is a little more specific. These ten selections should provide fun and easy drinking through the cold weather months and easy gifts for social events. It's not a top ten list, but rather a list of suggested bottles for everyone to enjoy - from the uninitiated to the most opinionated.
These are gift ideas, sure, but more importantly, they are suggestions for holiday gatherings. For little more than the price of a decent bottle of boring ol' plain wine, you could liven up your next holiday or cold-weather gathering with something more exciting: fortified wine!
Whether you approach them as botanically infused wines or pre-bottled, wine-based cocktails, fortified wine like vermouth and quinquina is the perfect drink for social gatherings, especially ones centering around food. After all, vermouth is both a wonderful aperitif and digestif. Fortified wine should be consumed alongside two things – food and friends, of which the holiday season provides plenty.
My serving suggestions are neat, rocks, with soda, or with tonic. Keep it simple. The sweeter the vermouth, the more you'll want to add ice and soda water. Add a citrus twist, or maybe an olive or two if you're feeling it. You can treat most of these as wine, especially the drier expressions. These are beautiful, complex bottles that can and should be enjoyed in a simple, straightforward manner.
If you'd like to whip up some cocktails, there are plenty of two- or three-ingredient cocktails you can make depending on what you have on hand, like the Martini, Negroni, Manhattan, or Milano-Torino. Again, keep it simple. The less time you spend preparing drinks, the more time you'll get to spend enjoying them with friends and family.
Where to buy these? If you don't have access to a fairly well-stocked local wine or spirits shop, you may be able to order them online from any number of retailers, including Astor Wine and Spirits and Binny's Beverage Depot. You can sometimes purchase vermouth directly from the producer (as with Channing Daughters and Rockwell Vermouth).
And now, without further ado, I present to you (and Google SEO), Brian Tasch's Super Rad Top 10 Best Holiday Vermouth Buying Guide List of Best Vermouths for the Holidays Shopping Guide! #spicymargarita #vodkasoda #oldfashioned #nothingsirealanymore
Best Intro to Vermouth: Cinzano Rosso
My top pick for someone new to the world of vermouth is Cinzano Rosso. Just mix it with a little soda and serve it with an orange twist. Once your guests realize this tastes like the best and most complex version of a cola they've ever had, they will see the world a little differently. They will also drink all of your vermouth. It's worth noting I am specifically calling for Cinzano's standard Rosso expression, not the drier, more bitter, and herbaceous 1757 Rosso.
Best Vermouth for White Wine Drinkers: Channing Daughters Vervino Vermouth
This stuff is absolutely delicious, but the undiscerning drinker may not even realize some of the Channing Daughters Vervino Vermouth expressions are even vermouth at all. They won't work particularly well in classic cocktails, and I find them best served as you would a wine: neat, in a wine glass. Vervino makes for a perfectly unassuming aperitivo as well as a nice, herbaceous complement to any food.
Best Vermouth for Rosé drinkers: Lillet Rosé
If you like rosé, Lillet Rosé is the bottle for you. I mean, duh. Again, not super versatile as a cocktail ingredient, but it's so delicious on its own or with ice, there's little reason to consume it any other way (though I suppose straight from the bottle also works).
Best Vermouth for Red Wine drinkers: La Fuerza Rojo
While Lillet Rouge is a straightforward, if unexciting experience that will surely please red wine drinkers with its Merlot base and low amount of added sugar, La Fuerza Rojo is the real move for lovers of red wine. La Fuerza also boasts a red wine base (Malbec), and the extra spice and snappy cinchona bite make it an improvement over Lillet Rouge almost any way you look at it.
Best Holiday Dry Vermouth: Routin Dry
Sage and sherry notes make Routin Dry perfect for pairing with traditional western holiday foods, especially all the leftover sides. Routin Dry is a versatile dry vermouth that adds a nice seasonally-appropriate herbaceous backbone to cocktails.
Best Holiday Sweet Vermouth: Mancino Rosso Amaranto.
Mancino's Rosso Amaranto makes for a lovely sweet vermouth for the holidays. While most Italian sweet red vermouth leans heavily into cinnamon, vanilla, and orange with pronounced bitterness and plenty of sugar to balance it, Mancino Rosso Amaranto is a bit of an outlier in the category. With the lowest sugar content of any Italian sweet vermouth I can think of, it's a bright and bracing exception to the typically heavy offerings of the region. There's lots of juicy red fruit on the palate with a perfect balance of confectionary, herbal, and savory notes. It is one of the few vermouths to hit every point on what I call the Bermutto Triangle: herbal, fruity, and confectionary. There is no wrong way to enjoy this one.
Best Dry Vermouth for Martini Lovers: Rockwell Extra Dry
Yeah, Dolin Dry is just the heckin' best. We get it already.
If you want to surprise and impress your Martini-lover, who more than likely swears by their standby Dolin or Noilly Prat, get them a bottle of Rockwell Extra Dry vermouth. It's a delicious and versatile fortified wine and a testament to the quality of contemporary American vermouth in the face of both under- and over-regulation of the category.
Best Vermouth for People who Already Love Vermouth: BCN Vermut Ambar Mediterranean Dry
If you're trying to find a bottle of vermouth for a pal who already loves the stuff, look no further: you're gonna blow some minds with this one. This bottle is especially cool because it's a dry vermouth that makes for a perfect digestivo. It's bitter, faintly smokey, and woodsy - the perfect cold-weather dry vermouth. It works shockingly well in classic cocktails, but expect a bit of sandalwood, myrrh, and cedar riding that bitter wormwood and balanced vanilla backbone.
Best Vermouth for People Who Will Never Like Vermouth: Martini & Rossi Fiero
Martini & Rossi's Fiero vermouth is a great gift for that friend of yours who loves a spritz but doesn't care for vermouth. I'm not a huge fan of the stuff myself, but it will satisfy the Aperol Spritz lovers. And everybody likes blood orange, right? Rossi Fiero is one of the least bitter and complex vermouths out there, which is the perfect backhanded compliment for an introductory fortified wine.
Best Overall Crowd Pleaser: Cocchi di Torino
Sorry if you were looking for something newer or "more exciting" for my crowd-pleaser vermouth pick, but it really is hard to top Cocchi di Torino vermouth. It will make all of your cocktails better. Cocchi di Torino is a nice aperitivo and maybe an even better digestivo. I've yet to meet anyone who wasn't immediately both impressed and intrigued by this vermouth.
So there you have it. Buy some of these or go to my vermouth guides and buy one of those recommended bottles. Or buy whatever bottle looks coolest at your local wine or spirits shop. Have fun with it and enjoy spending time with your friends and family (with or without the vermouth)!
Stay safe out there, y'all.