Refills can be purchased at Downton Brewery, Dark Revolution Brewery (Old Sarum Airfield), Healthy Living (Devizes) & Regent Tailoring in Salisbury.

Vermouth, Downton, Distillery, Wiltshire


Vermouth, a fortified wine flavoured with various botanicals, has a rich and varied history that spans several centuries.

The creation of modern vermouth is credited to the Italians, specifically in Turin, Italy. In 1786, Antonio Benedetto Carpano is acknowledged for producing the first commercial vermouth. Carpano's creation was a sweet, aromatic wine infused with a blend of herbs, spices, and roots, marking the birth of vermouth as it is known today.

While the concept of flavoured and fortified wines existed long before Carpano, similar beverages were enjoyed in ancient Greece, Rome, and throughout the Middle Ages. It was his formulation that set the standard for modern vermouth production.

Following its development in Italy, vermouth quickly spread to France, where French producers developed their own styles, typically drier and lighter than the Italian versions.

Here’s a quick look into its origins and evolution:

Origins and Early History

  • Ancient Beginnings: The concept of adding herbs and botanicals to wine dates back to ancient civilizations, including the Greeks and Romans. They used these concoctions for medicinal purposes, believing that the botanicals had health benefits.
  • Middle Ages: During the Middle Ages, spiced and herb-infused wines were popular across Europe. These early forms of vermouth were still primarily used for their supposed medicinal properties.

The Birth of Modern Vermouth

  • 18th Century: The modern version of vermouth as we know it today began to take shape in the 18th century in Turin, Italy. In 1786, Antonio Benedetto Carpano is credited with creating the first commercial vermouth. His version was a sweet, aromatic wine flavoured with a blend of herbs, spices, and roots.
  • Expansion to France: Shortly after its development in Italy, vermouth production spread to France. French vermouth, particularly from the Chambéry region, tended to be drier and lighter than its Italian counterpart.

Vermouth Types and Varieties

  • Italian Vermouth: Known for its sweetness and richness, Italian vermouth often features flavours of vanilla, caramel, and dark fruits. Carpano and Martini & Rossi are among the most famous producers.
  • French Vermouth: Typically drier and more floral, French vermouth is epitomized by brands like Noilly Prat and Dolin. It is often used in classic cocktails such as the Martini.

Role in Cocktails

  • 19th and Early 20th Centuries: Vermouth became a crucial ingredient in many classic cocktails during the cocktail golden age. The Manhattan, Martini, and Negroni are some of the most iconic drinks that feature vermouth.
  • Post-Prohibition: The popularity of vermouth saw fluctuations, particularly after the Prohibition era in the United States. However, it has remained a staple in cocktail culture.

Modern Revival

21st Century: In recent years, vermouth has experienced a resurgence in popularity. Craft vermouth producers have emerged, creating artisanal products with unique botanical blends. This revival has been driven by a renewed interest in classic cocktails and a greater appreciation for quality ingredients.

Cultural Impact

  • Italian and French Influence: Vermouth has a strong cultural significance in both Italy and France, where it is often enjoyed as an aperitif, either neat or with a splash of soda. The tradition of the aperitivo hour in Italy, a social time for pre-dinner drinks and snacks, prominently features vermouth.
  • Global Reach: Today, vermouth is enjoyed worldwide and continues to be a versatile and essential ingredient in both traditional and innovative cocktails.

Notable Brands and Innovations

  • Historical Brands: Some of the oldest and most respected vermouth brands include Martini & Rossi, Cinzano, and Noilly Prat.
  • New Producers: The modern vermouth landscape includes a variety of new producers who experiment with different botanicals and production techniques, contributing to the diversity and richness of vermouth available today.

In summary, vermouth’s history is a fascinating journey from ancient medicinal wines to a sophisticated, globally appreciated ingredient in modern mixology. Its evolution reflects broader trends in culinary and beverage history, demonstrating the enduring appeal of this complex and flavourful drink.

Previous post