YOUR GUIDE TO VERMOUTH IN SPAIN
If your idea of vermouth is a mixer that you occasionally use as in cocktails (or forget at the end of your drinks cabinet), you are in for a change of mentality. Vermouth in Spain is a cultural thing, a tradition, almost a ritual. But let’s start from the beginning: we call it “vermut” or “vermú”. And we drink it as an aperitif. Yes, chilled and alone. Or on the rocks, often garnished with an orange rind and an olive on a toothpick. Some also add a dash of sifon (local club soda), that is supposed to open up its aromas. Oh, and we mostly drink red vermouth.
And it is traditionally drunk before lunch as an aperifif, specially on Sundays, when we “go for a vermouth”. And that actually mean that we meet with friends or family around a glass of vermouth and some savory appetizers. BTW, don’t be surprised if someone tells you go to for a vermouth and ends up ordering wine or beer instead. While the ritual takes the name of a particular drink, other beverages are socially acceptable alternatives, and well as soda and juices are often served to kids participating in the vermouth ritual. The whole idea revolves about drinking before a meal while eating something to prepare your stomach for the meal: roasted almonds, potato chips, cheese, ham or cold cuts, olives, crackers, canned cockels…
A bit of history of Spanish vermouth…
Did you know the Greek doctor and philosopher Hippocrates already prepared wine and herbs concoctions that were the origin of the current vermouth? In the Middle Ages it was still called “hippocratic wine”. The name vermouth appeared later, from German wermut (wormwood, one of its traditional ingredients). And it was the Italian Perucchi who brought it to Spain and produced it in Barcelona for the first time in 1860. Soon the nearby town of Reus became the leader in the industry with some 30 producers at some point – still some of them in operation.
And while the vermouth tradition lived low hours at the end of the XXth century, these last years it’s seen a revival, with many bars making their own vermouths served from the tap, and youngsters considering it a trendy drink (fancier than beer, and more affordable than wine), that they enjoy in fancy new “vermouterias” as well as in oldfashioned bodgegas. Here is our post about Vermouth in Barcelona for some great places to go.
One last thing before I delve into my Spanish vermouth brand recommendations. In case you are wondering, Spanish vermouth doesn’t present the bitterness that is characteristic in the French and Italian vermouths. They taste sweeter (even if they might not carry as much sugar as their European counterparts), and that’s mainly due to their combination of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom or cloves that will often remind you of a Christmas mulled wine… but chilled.
Red Spanish vermouth
De Muller Reserva
If you want to feel like a royal, that’s the vermouth to go for, as the De Muller winery has been an official provider of the Spanish Monarchy since 1904. This is a very nicely priced Catalan vermouth that continues to follow the old recipes from their original founders in the late 1800’s, and combines herbal and botanic aromas with the elegant touch of wood provided by the vats where the wine macerates.