If you visit Spain and are interested in the drink culture it soon becomes evident that the Spaniards drink a lot of red vermouth (vermut), usually with ice and lemon. Some bars have a font or small barrel for dispensing and there are a number of brands you never see in the UK. A recent trend, at least in Jerez, has been the appearance of up-market vermouth. And vermouth is very common in Italy with some of their rarer brands becoming available here. For example Waitrose sell Cocchi Vermouth di Torino at £18 for a 50cl bottle which I would think is a hard sell, at least in Lichfield.
I tried three, first at room temperature, then with ice. This was a rather artificial tasting since drinking neat vermouth is, in this country, unusual with most red vermouth going into cocktails, most notably the Negroni.
Vermut Lustau: Lustau are a sherry producer in Jerez and I think this has a sherry base with added botanicals. Brown colour, rich herby nose, initially sweet but finishing dry. Sold by Waitrose, £13, 50cl. My favourite.
Carpano Antica Formula: made in Milan with a wine base with other ingredients using a ‘secret formula’. Similar in colour to the Lustau but with a shier nose and a drier finish, despite sugar being listed as an ingredient. This was sold by Waitrose but no longer with the last bottles being knocked down. Ocado still have it at £12 for a half bottle.
Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino: made in the Piedmont, wine base with added botanicals and matured in oak. Light red – could have been a wine – dried herbs, especially thyme, on the nose and in the mouth, less complex than the other two but the most bitter. No discernible oak. It was sold by Waitrose (£11, 75cl) but also seems to have vanished.
All three were less impressive with ice as the taste was softened and diluted. Better to chill the bottles and/or the glass.