Aperitifs and Digestifs

Vermouth is the best known of the aromatised wines and a key part of many classic cocktails. The category not only includes red, white and rosé vermouth but Italian amaros; fernet, a bitter style of amaro; and Barolo chinato, a digestif from the Piedmont region of Italy.

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VermouthAperitifs and Digestifs

Vermouths, and other aperitifs and digestifs, have been a constantly popular part of the drinks world for decades. Drunk on their own or used as cocktail ingredients, they are versatile and flavoursome drinks that deserve further exploration.

What is vermouth?

Vermouth is an aromatised fortified wine, made by adding botanicals to wine which has had spirit added to it. They are usually around 15%-20% abv and come in a variety of different styles – the two most common are:

Sweet vermouth – often called sweet red vermouth or vermouth rosso, as the most popular ones have a deep red colour, or Italian vermouth, after the country where the style was popularised.

Dry vermouth – a key ingredient of the Martini cocktail, these white vermouths are less commonly drunk neat, but can be a refreshing aperitif.

The best vermouth brands to look out for include Martini, Dolin, Cocchi, Carpano – especially Antica Formula – and Noilly Prat.

Vermouth Cocktails

While vermouths can be drunk on their own, these days they are more commonly found as ingredients in a wide range of cocktails – vermouth is key to the Manhattan and Negroni, as well as the Martini. While sweet vermouth is a better known ingredient, dry vermouth cocktails are experiencing a renaissance. It is most commonly used when making Martinis and either dry or perfect Manhattans, but there are a whole host of classic cocktails to investigate.

What is amaro?

The Italian for ‘bitter’, amaro is a herbal liqueur that is usually drunk as a digestif. Produced by macerating herbs and spices in alcohol, then bottled at around 30% abv.

What is Barolo Chinato?

Cinchona bark is steeped in Barolo wine (a full-bodied red made from the Nebbiolo grape) and flavoured with herbs and spices to produce a full-bodied robust digestif at around 16% abv.

What is fernet?

Fernet is an extra-bitter style of amaro, produced by adding herbs and spices to spirit, and usually bottled at around 40% abv.


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