Vermouth (also spelled vermuth) is a fortified wine flavored with aromatic herbs and spices ("aromatized" in the trade) using closely-guarded recipes (trade secrets). Some vermouth is sweetened; however, unsweetened, or dry, vermouth tends to be bitter. The person credited with the first vermouth recipe, Antonio Benedetto Carpano from Turin, Italy, chose to name his concoction "vermouth" in 1786 because he was inspired by a German wine flavored with wormwood, a herb most famously used in distilling absinthe. The modern German word Wermut (Wermuth in the spelling of Carpano's time) means both wormwood and vermouth. The herbs were originally used to mask raw flavors of cheaper wines, imparting a slightly medicinal "tonic" flavor.
There are three general styles of vermouth, in order from driest to sweetest: extra dry, bianco/white, and sweet/red. Sweet red vermouth is drunk as an apéritif
, often straight up
, as well as in mixed drinks like the Manhattan
. Dry white vermouth, along with gin
, is a key ingredient in the mixing of martinis
. Red vermouths are sometimes referred to as Italian vermouths and white vermouths as French vermouths, although not all Italian vermouths are red and not all white vermouths are French.
Punt e mes
Punt e mes
is an Italian
vermouth. It is dark brown in color and has a bitter flavor. Punt e mes literally means "point and a half" in Piedmontese
and owes its name to a sudden raise of the stock market (naturally, of a point and a half) which greatly benefitted the Carpano distilleries, which then created the vermouth brand to commemorate the occasion. It can be used as a substitute for regular rosso vermouth in such drinks as the Americano
. Punt e mes has a strong, distinctive flavor, half-way between regular rosso vermouth and Campari
. Punt e mes was made by the Carpano
family from Turin
until 2001, when Distillerie Fratelli Branca