food and beverage

Vermouth: From Hippocrates to Emma D’Arcy

While vermouth is best known as the essential ingredient in Martinis and Manhattans, today, the hottest way to drink vermouth is on its own. It’s officially reached the pinnacle of alcoholic beverage stardom, making the ranks as the “hot girls” drink. 

Before we dive into the current sensation, let’s look back at its beginnings—a journey that will take us to China and the ancient Greeks in the time of Hippocrates.

Wormwood – The Beginning

Hippocrates considered the father of modern medicine, macerated wine with the herb wormwood and Dictamnus leaves from Crete around 400 BC. This was considered a medicinal concoction that Hippocrates gave to his patients. Over 1,000 years earlier, medicinal alcohol combined with herbs and spices was also commonly used in China and India.

Germany, however, lays claim to its namesake, as their wormwood-infused wines inspired it. The German word for wormwood is wermut and hence, the name vermouth. Here, it also started as a medicinal drink around the 16th century and is an essential ingredient in absinthe, but that’s for another story.

Italians get credit for the modern sweet vermouth, which was also a medicinal tonic in the 16th century before transitioning to a sophisticated aperitif sometime in the 18th or 19th century. France lays claim to dry vermouth. Today, there are five styles: rouge, blanc, extra dry, dry, and half dry. 

Wormwood is known to aid digestion and has been used since time immemorial to cleanse the stomach, alleviate stomach pain, and treat stomach disorders. For that reason, people today drink it as an aperitif and digestif. As with most things in this world, you’ll find many places and cultures had their hand in its creation.

What Is Vermouth?

Vermouth is an aromatized wine with herbs, spices, flowers, bark, seeds, roots, and other botanicals added through maturation in barrels. Sometimes the alcohol content is strengthened with a neutral alcohol. High-quality vermouths may add ingredients like cinnamon, clove, cardamom, citrus, and gentian. Others blend vanilla, rose, lavender, cassia bark, and star anise. In Spain, it has been a long-held custom for people to drink it as a before-lunch aperitif. 

Vermouth Today

The nonbinary celebrity from House of Dragons, Emma D’Arcy, made Negroni Sbagliato with Prosecco a viral video sensation in October 2022 when they mentioned it as their favorite drink while talking with her costar Olivia Cooke. The viral TikTok post made the popular Italian cocktail an immediate cultural phenomenon. And, as you can probably guess, the unsung hero of our popular drink is nonother than vermouth—red vermouth also referred to as sweet vermouth. The drink consists of equal parts sweet Vermouth, Campari, and Prosecco. 

Drinking vermouth over ice has also become the new rage thanks to the high-quality vermouths offered in various flavors and complexities. Italians, French, Spanish, and, currently, Americans drink it on ice with a lemon twist if drinking lighter vermouths and an orange twist if enjoying darker vermouths. Some restaurants also serve it neat in a chilled glass over frozen grapes. And, sometimes, a splash of soda is added for a light boozy spritzer.

At just 105 calories per 3 oz serving, it’s also considered one of the best types of alcohol for weight loss. Another reason it may have made its way to fame is the many polyphenols it contains, a significant amount more than white wine. Polyphenols, a naturally occurring compound in plants, have been shown to help regulate weight and even protect against some chronic diseases.

Are you ready to raise a toast and enjoy an aperitif? 

FAQS

Why do people drink vermouth?

That is probably a question from someone who has never tried it. When added to a cocktail, it brings an aromatic layer and a complexity that only vermouth can. Enjoyed neat, you can experience its varied and unique flavors. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it helps in the digestion process.

How did Hippocrates use vermouth?

The early incarnations of vermouth were used for many ailments, including getting rid of intestinal worms and parasites, reducing fever, and treating liver and gallbladder imbalances.  

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