Have you ever tried Spanish vermouth? Below we'll explain everything there is to know about this iconic fortified wine, from how it's made to where to drink it!
When you think of vermouth, you probably think of a bottle of bitter fortified wine, lingering for years at the back of your drinks cabinet to be used only occasionally in martinis or Manhattans. Well, think again.
Here in Spain, we drink vermouth on its own. If that sounds unpleasant to you, don’t worry; Spanish vermouth is a world away from what you’re used to.
On our Devour food tours, it's not uncommon for guests to start off deeply skeptical about trying vermut—but they often end up saying it was their favorite drink of the tour! Here's the ultimate guide to Spain's favorite aperitif.
What Is Spanish Vermouth?
Here in Spain we typically drink sweet, red vermouth: vermut rojo. But despite its color, all vermouth starts out as white wine. It gains its darker color through the infusion of caramel and various spices and botanicals.
Each vermut has its own flavor profile according to the spices used. Look out for cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves in the aroma and taste. It's almost like a cold mulled wine!
The best vermouths typically come de grifo (from the tap) in Madrid, and not from a bottle. In Barcelona, bottled vermouth is more common; people often order the whole bottle for their group. And at the most traditional places, you can even fill your own bottle from the bodega's enormous barrels.
You can enjoy vermouth straight or on the rocks (often with a slice of orange and/or olive). And try a dash of sifón: Spain’s version of club soda, which can help open up the aromatic flavors of the wine.
Read More: Brush up on your bar skills with this guide to ordering drinks in Spanish.
When Do We Drink Vermouth?
Its unique mixture of spices makes vermouth the perfect aperitif to drink before a meal. Many people believe that this can help prepare your appetite and aid in digestion. Back in the day, vermouth was also the classic drink to have after (or before!) Sunday Mass.
These days, fewer Spaniards regularly attend church, but the tradition has continued. Despite being somewhat strong (around 15% alcohol), it's viewed as the most socially acceptable alcoholic drink to have before noon on a Sunday!
Read More: Learn where to buy vermouth, sherry, and wine in Madrid.
The Evolution of Spanish Vermouth
The most famous Spanish vermouth traditionally comes from Reus, a small town in Catalonia of around 100,000 people. It became one of the major European centers of the liquor industry way back in the 18th century.
Many of the vermouths you'll find in Spain—including Yzaguirre and Miró, which we try on our Tapas, Taverns & History Tour in Madrid—hail from Reus. These classic vermouths tend to be a little sweeter, so try pairing them with salty Spanish olives for contrast.
If we're being honest, vermouth has traditionally had a reputation as an “old man drink” in Spain. But these days, producers are experimenting with infusions to create innovative takes on vermouth—which is quickly becoming one of the hottest drink trends in the country.
One of our favorites is St. Petroni, a Galician vermouth made with typical plants and herbs of the region: bay leaves, rosemary, and wormwood (long thought to have magical and medicinal properties).
For something a little more avant-garde, Casa Mariol’s vermut negro (black/red vermouth) is darkened with walnuts, creating a delicious mix of bitter and sweet notes. It comes in a beautifully designed bottle, making it one of our favorite Spanish gifts for friends and family back home.
Where to Drink Vermouth in Spain
Given the historical importance of Catalonia in the production of vermouth, it's no surprise that this region is one of the best places in the world to drink it. There are tons of authentic vermouth bars in Barcelona where you can sample the best.
In Madrid, Sunday is the best time to see vermouth culture in action. Many madrileños start at the Rastro market before heading out for tapas in La Latina—all washed down with vermouth.
In La Latina, La Gildería is a great spot for a vermouth and a Gilda: a simple pintxo with olives, anchovies, and peppers that pairs perfectly with a sweet vermut. And La Hora del Vermut in the Mercado de San Miguel has a great range of varieties from across Spain.
In Seville, there’s nowhere better than the oldest bar in the city, El Rinconcillo, to pair traditional vermouth with delicious cured ham. For the full experience, hit up more than one of our favorite places to drink vermouth in Seville.
Spanish Vermouth FAQs
Spanish vermouth is a fortified wine flavored with caramel, spices, and botanicals. Although it's most often dark brown in color, it's actually made from white wine. The end result is a strong, sweet, and unique drink that's often enjoyed before meals in Spain.
The most traditional Spanish vermouth is made in the city of Reus in Catalonia. However, these days producers all across the country are creating their own versions. Some of our favorite vermouths come from Barcelona, Madrid, and Galicia.
Vermouth is the perfect drink to enjoy with tapas! It's often paired with strong salty flavors to contrast with its sweetness. We suggest pairing it with olives, anchovies, nuts, and cheese, or heartier tapas like tortilla de patatas, croquetas, and patatas bravas.
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