Give Vermouth A Chance

Photo: Blake Wisz via Unsplash

Let's talk Vermouth!

If you're thinking, "Booooring!", well stop that right now because Vermouth has gotten a She's All That-style makeover and is ready to go to the dance with YOU. Or just sit on your front porch and talk for hours. Whatever. Because that's just the kind of drink Vermouth is--easy going, versatile, and there for you.

Most of us know Vermouth as a wallflower. It plays a crucial supporting role in classic cocktails like the Martini and the Manhattan, but beyond that, it's not the most popular bottle on the shelf. In fact, it's not always clear where you would locate Vermouth in your local liquor store. Is it a liqueur? A mixer? A wine? 

Let's straighten that part out right away. Vermouth is a wine! A fortified wine, to be exact. Fortified wines are neutral grape spirits that have been aromatized with flavorful herbs and botanicals. Are you familiar with Sherry or Port? Those are fortified wines, too! The practice of fortifying originated hundreds of years ago as a way to ingest herbs and botanicals that were thought to have medicinal properties. In fact, the word Vermouth itself comes from "wermut," the Germanic word for wormwood, an herb known for its digestive benefits. 

But don't let the word wormwood turn you off. Vermouth has gone through some changes (and wormwood isn't usually on the menu these days). For much of history, Vermouth producers have been quite cagey about what exactly they put in their products. Ingredients lists would vaguely say citrus, flowers, or plants, words that don't tell the discerning drinker anything useful about what they're ingesting. Like many antique recipes, Vermouth has experienced its share of mass production. Added sugars, dyes, and other unnatural ingredients have kept Vermouth from reaching its full, flavorful potential.

Until now! With the advent of craft drink culture, Vermouth has stepped out of the shadows and been given new life by passionate bartenders and producers who value great ingredients and pleasure above all. Companies like Otto's Athens Vermouth and Priorat Natur Vermouth are some wonderful examples.

Our current Vermouth crush is a very cool family-run company called HAUS out in California. This husband-and-wife team crafts delicate apértifs from grapes and plants that they grow themselves. You won't find the word "Vermouth" in any of the HAUS literature, but the couple crafts their products in the same spirit as the most ancient of Vermouths. Each HAUS apértif is meant to stand on its own, as a simple and highly aromatic sipper that will enhance whatever situation you're in. HAUS is transparent about the things they choose to put into each bottle, and one sniff of the liquid should convince you: this is the good stuff.

If you want my advice, start with a bottle of HAUS Citrus Flower, which you can buy directly from Sip Better (you must be a member to purchase). Splash a bit into your glass and then give it a swirl. You'll get a clearing whiff of bright lemon and heady floral notes that might just transport you to a field of wildflowers, in the middle of nowhere, on a sunny afternoon.  More of a whiskey drinker? Try the HAUS Bitter Clove simply chilled with a couple of Italian amarena cherries and sit, sip and chill. 

SHOP HAUS APÉRTIFS AT SIP BETTER (available only to Sip Better Members under SHOP ALL)

--Emily Rentsch


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