Unavoidably, this guide is not exhaustive. Many vermouths are regional products that don’t get exported to the U.S., and admittedly, the listings here are biased toward the U.S. marketplace. However, the marketplace is fluid, and we will add more listings as adequate information becomes available.
These are the products that are ostensibly both definitive of Torino’s vermouth traditions and closest to (imitative of) the original commercialized, bottled vermouth di Torino (Carpano’s). When a mixed drink recipe specifies “Italian vermouth” or “sweet vermouth”, a product from this style is implied.
Vermouth di Torino has protected designation of origin, but it is not enforced at the behest of the industry, because few brands would meet the requirements. Arguably, this is a supply issue, with international product demand outstripping the wine production capacity of the region. One example that arguably meets the designation of origin is Cocchi Vermouth di Torino.
A traditional regional style of flavored vermouth: Vermouth di Torino with added bitters (typically gentian, with added sugar to balance). Adulterating Vermouth di Torino with bitters or vanilla flavoring—almost like a cockail—when drinking it is an Turinese custom almost as old as vermouth itself; this style has extra bitters built-in.
Punt e Mes dates to around 1867 and is simultaneously amongst the bitterest and sweetest of vermouths. Although it is not typically described or marketed as such, Punt e Mes can be thought of as a bottled vermouth cocktail. Punt e Mes is Carpano's top-selling vermouth.
A traditional regional style of flavored vermouth: vermouth with added chinchona (and often gentian too). Splits the difference between a vermouth and a quinquina.
A traditional regional style of flavored vermouth: Vermouth di Torino with added vanilla flavoring. Adulterating Vermouth di Torino with bitters or vanilla flavoring—almost like a cockail—when drinking it is an Turinese custom almost as old as vermouth itself; this style has vanilla built-in. Because of the vanilla, this style of vermouth plays especially well with the significant caramel components and bold flavors of bourbon and straight rye whiskey.
Antica Formula is a highly-regarded product first introduced in the 1990s. Antica Formula is an example of the "vermouth alla vaniglia" style: a red vermouth with added vanilla flavoring and sugar to balance. Note: Antica Formula is based on an old recipe, but it is not Carpano's original vermouth recipe.
Colorless sweet vermouth style invented by Chambéry producer Dolin, subsequently reinterpreted by many other producers. Dolin blanc has Appellation d' Origine designation. The blanc style is frequently generalized as more herb-centric and less spicy than Torino-style rosso vermouth. Note that popular “bianco” vermouths from Italy were, one way or another (directly or indirectly) inspired by Dolin, but evince different priorities (see below).
In the early years of the 20th Century, when Italian vermouth producers were diversifying their export product lines, some began introducing their own “bianco” style, loosely inspired by the Chambèry Blanc style (see above), but much bolder-flavored, and, if current is at all representative, often vanilla-forward and “feminine” (in sexist market-speak). Bianco vermouths remained a relatively obscure sideline to the red and dry vermouths until the late 20th/early 21st Century, when they abruptly became fashionable in large markets such as Russia, and now compete with red vermouths in total sales volumes.
Provençe, France developed its own successful vermouth tradition in the early 19th Century, possibly beating the Italians into the export business. There, the vermouth was both for drinking and for use as a cooking ingredient, such as for fish sauces. While there once were various producers in Marseilles able to take advantage of the local port for export, those products disappeared long ago as the style focused on what was its first and now its only representative: Noilly Prat (produced for nearly its entire history quite some distance down the coast in Languedoc, in a town called Marseillan).
Chambéry developed a regionally-characteristic lighter, subtler style of dry vermouth in the 19th Century, without any of the oxidation flavors of the Marseilles style. This style enjoyed a period of popularity during the austere mid-20th Century United States market, with Chambéry producers like Lejon, Dolin and Boissiere spawning much imitation, even driving Marseilles dry vermouth producer Noilly Prat to start producing a Chambéry-influenced style (today known as Noilly Prat Extra Dry) exclusively for the American market. Today, the only vermouth producer remaining in Chambéry is Dolin.
(see also Noilly Prat Extra Dry)
Nascent style of contemporary vermouths from the United States, principally from small artisanal producers in the West Coast wine industry. American wineries actually have a history of producing their own vermouths, although in the past these products were largely positioned as cheaper domestic alternatives to imported product, and due to market conditions in the latter part of the 20th Century, the number of these domestic producers dwindled drastically. In recent years, some small wineries have taken a fresh look at the vermouth market and began developing products that aren't imitative of European products and—consistent with the contemporary Slow Food and locavore movements—focus on regional botanicals. Notably, these new American vermouths do not tend to include wormwood amongst their botanicals, partly because wormwood is not required in the American legal definition of vermouth and partly because including wormwood raises the risk of running afoul of bureaucratic thujone regulation enforcement. These new products are very much doing their own thing and none of them should be assumed to be drop-in substitutes for any of the European vermouths.
Unprecedented contemporary extensions and innovations of vermouth.
Spain has had a small vermouth tradition “flying under the radar” at least since the late 19th Century. We’re still waiting for details, but initial indications are that a few transplants from Torino may have brought their vermouth tradition to northern Spain where they reinterpreted it through the local wines. As far as we can tell, no Spanish vermouth was ever imported to the United States prior to 2009, but we’re delighted to now have some examples of this distinct tradition
Special thanks to Eric Seed, Romée de Gorianoff, Alexandre Vingtier and Carl Sutton for their invaluable assistance on this project. Otherwise, the individual to blame for this site is Martin Doudoroff, a New York City cocktail enthusiast driven to this sort of folly from time to time.
Corrections, augmentations and general feedback, particularly from vermouth and quinquina producers, are all welcomed at email@example.com.
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Vermouth 101 was edited by Martin Doudoroff, inspired by preceding work by Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh. All trademarks and intellectual property employed in discussing brands belong to their respective owners.