Cocktails are and always have been about experimenting with different flavors to create inventive and original combinations that taste great.
You can mix and match dozens of different things in a cocktail to change up the flavors, from the base spirits to the mixers and juices. But sometimes, especially when you are someone who likes classic cocktails like a martini, Negroni, or Manhattans, things can get a bit stifling.
Vermouth-based classic cocktails are delicious and simple, often combining just a few ingredients to make a drink that is complex and just right. But being too “by-the-book” can bore you and your guests.
Here are a few of our favorite vermouth substitutes for you to try to get some more creative and inventive cocktail recipes floating around in your mind.
What Is Vermouth?
There is a lot of secrecy and deception out there about what vermouth is, but the truth is, vermouth is a pretty simple alcoholic beverage. Vermouth is a specific type of fortified wine that is spiced and flavored with botanicals and spices.
When we say vermouth is a fortified wine, we mean it is a wine that has been made stronger via the addition of more alcohol (making vermouth higher ABV than wine but less than hard liquor).
There are two main types of vermouth that are quite different from each other: dry vermouth and sweet vermouth.
What Is Dry Vermouth?
Dry vermouth, also sometimes known as French vermouth or even as white vermouth, originated in France. Dry vermouth is a dry drink, meaning there is not much sweetness. In fact, dry vermouth often has 5% or less sugar content.
Dry vermouth is most famously used in the classic martini cocktail. Dry vermouth is clear to pale yellow in color, which allows the martini to keep its clear color, and the dry, botanical forward taste goes perfectly with gin.
What Is Sweet Vermouth?
Sweet vermouth, also sometimes known as Italian vermouth or red vermouth, is the other common type of vermouth. Sweet vermouth is much sweeter than its dry counterpart, featuring sugar content as high as 15%.
Sweet vermouth also tends to be flavored heavier with spices, herbs, and vanilla, making it a stronger pairing with darker liquors rather than lighter liquors which dry vermouth lends itself towards.
It is also important to note that you can find blanc or Bianco sweet vermouth, which is a white version of sweet vermouth, not to be confused with dry vermouth.
What Does Vermouth Taste Like?
Vermouth is mostly made of wine, meaning that vermouth is going to taste mostly like, well, a wine. But the additional botanicals, spices, herbs, and flavors that are added to the vermouth, as well as the fortifier, change the flavors so that each specific brand and blend tastes a little different.
Most vermouth is herbal and spiced, with citrus and acidic notes as well. Vermouth is very palatable and can be enjoyed as an apéritif or in cocktails.
This is precisely why substituting vermouth works so well in cocktails. Since all vermouth tastes different from each other, there is a lot of wiggle room to play with flavors if you are willing to.
Vermouth is an apéritif, meaning that it can be served on its own or as an addition or ingredient in many cocktails. It also means that, if you know what you are looking for, you can swap out the vermouth in a cocktail for most other apéritifs, so long as you have a game plan.
What Cocktails Is Vermouth Used In?
Before we get into our favorite substitutions for vermouth in cocktail recipes, we feel you should know the basic classics that vermouth is used in to have a jumping-off point.
The martini is the quintessential vermouth cocktail and perhaps the one that everyone knows best. The martini is made with gin or vodka mixed with dry vermouth, and that’s it. By playing with vermouth alternatives, you can take the martini in new and tasty directions that even the most “by the book” drinker will love.
The martini is to dry vermouth as the Negroni is to sweet vermouth. This classic Italian apéritif cocktail is equal parts sweet vermouth, gin, and Campari, a bitter, red apéritif. The sweet vermouth really shines in a great Negroni, so whatever alternative you use better taste great.
The Manhattan is the whiskey drinker vermouth cocktail. A Manhattan is a deceptively simple cocktail that tastes oh-so-good, consisting of just rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Playing with your vermouth can bring fun new flavors out of your rye whiskey of choice.
If you like Negroni’s but don’t love gin and would rather drink a darker spirit, then the Boulevardier is the perfect cocktail for you. The vermouth or vermouth alternative that you choose once again makes a massive impact on the flavors you can pull from your drink, and the addition of Campari gives a bitter and fun twist.
Understanding these basic cocktails will help you know what alternatives to look for and how you can play with our favorite vermouth substitutes to make some fun cocktails.
Our Favorite Vermouth Substitutes
As we mentioned earlier, vermouth is a type of apéritif, meaning that swapping out and substituting vermouth in a cocktail for another apéritif in the same realm as your vermouth can bring out new flavors and change up your cocktail entirely.
Without any further ado, here are our favorite vermouth substitutes for you to try!
Haus Citrus Flower Apéritif
One of our favorite vermouth substitutes is our Citrus Flower apéritif, a bright, lemon and elderflower forward apéritif. The Citrus Flower apéritif starts with our chardonnay grapes and grape brandy which are carefully sourced before we add the botanicals and flavorings.
Citrus Flower packs a lemon forward punch which is followed by the more subtle floral elements like elderflower, chrysanthemum, and hibiscus. On the back end, you may notice a slight cinnamon spice to round things out.
The Citrus Flower apéritif is a great substitute for dry vermouth in any cocktail, but it especially shines in a gin martini. The elderflower pairs with the gin in a very bright way, while the complex floral and citrus elements of the apéritif sing in your mouth after every sip.
Haus New Fashioned Apéritif
We started with a lighter, floral alternative to vermouth, and now we are coming in with a darker taste that goes great with darker liquors as well as lighter liquors. Haus New Fashioned apéritif, like all of our Haus apéritifs, starts with our carefully crafted blend of chardonnay grape and grape brandy.
But from there, New Fashioned goes in a warm and spicy direction, with Saigon cinnamon singing out in front with ginger and warm clove backing it up. It has some orange peel, too, bringing out a slight sweet touch that mixes perfectly well with whiskey.
New Fashioned apéritif is a great vermouth substitute in drinks like the Manhattan and Boulevardier, where the whiskey plays very nicely with New Fashioned warm tones.
Haus Pomegranate Rosemary
If you want something a little more herbaceous but just as refreshing as our other bottlings, then you are going to fall in love with Haus Pomegranate Rosemary apéritif. The main flavor components of this blend of rich and tart pomegranate blended with the woody and herbal rosemary are simply delicious.
Haus Pomegranate Rosemary apéritif is the perfect complement to gin, and swapping the vermouth in a martini for Pomegranate Rosemary is one of our go-to nightcaps.
Haus Spiced Cherry
If you are a fan of the Negroni or want to experiment with a great Negroni, Haus Spiced Cherry apéritif is going to be your new best friend. Spiced Cherry is one of our richest bottles, featuring a deep cherry flavor, spiced gently with anise seed and cocoa nibs to round it out.
Haus spiced cherry apéritif is a great substitute for sweet vermouth wherever it may be called for, especially if you want to bring a fruity overtone to a drink. We love making our Negronis with Spiced Cherry instead of sweet vermouth, as it brings something very intriguing to the gin and the bitter Campari.
Vermouth Substitute Takeaways
Vermouth is a delicious component in many classic cocktails. The standard can get boring and if you want to experiment a little, substituting your vermouth for another alternative is a great way to experiment and play.
The key is understanding what impact and flavors vermouth brings to the drink you are looking at, and particularly whether it uses sweet or dry vermouth. From there, you can choose alternatives that bring those elements to the cocktail you want to create.
We make plenty of great vermouth alternatives at Haus. Our apéritifs are a fortified wine much like vermouth, but with less traditional flavors and spices bringing a new, modern twist.
Substituting the vermouth in one of your favorite cocktails with any bottle of our Haus apéritif could change the way you look at vermouth.