Have you been hearing a lot about vermut lately?
Vermut or vermú (or as we call it in English, vermouth) is having a bit of a moment right now. Well… maybe only new for us Anglos. The Spaniards and Italians have been drinking it for literally hundreds of years!
So, what is vermouth? How do you drink vermouth in Spain? And most importantly: where can you find it and what kind should you drink?
Read on to discover what you need to know about drinking vermouth in Spain! We’ve even included a fun vermouth cocktail and the ultimate food pairing list. Enjoy!
What Is Vermouth?
First thing’s first. According to Wikipedia, vermouth is an “aromatized, fortified wine.” But, what does that actually mean?
Sweet vermouth, basically the only kind we consume in Spain, is a white wine. It’s fortified to about 15% alcohol, sweetened and colored with caramel, and then soaked in botanicals of all sorts: herbs, spices, roots, or leaves. Common vermouth flavors include cinnamon, clove, and juniper. Back in the old days, wormwood (the stuff that makes absinthe such a wild ride) was also used! In fact, the word vermut comes from the German word wermut.
The magic of vermouth comes from the combination of all of these elements: which base wine was used, how much caramel has been added, and which botanicals are selected.
How to Drink Vermouth in Spain?
Now that you know more about this fortified wine, you may be wondering how to actually drink vermouth in Spain? Well, vermouth is only, always, ever, an aperitif. Do not even think of ordering vermouth at the end of your meal.
In fact, you shouldn’t even have vermouth with your meal! One thing to remember: Spain enjoys delightful laissez-faire in many things… but not food. When it comes to food and drink, there are rules. And one of those rules governs the consumption of vermouth.
Vermouth is such the quintessential aperitivo that the word is even sometimes used to mean any before-meal drink. (Similar to how U.S. Southerners say “Coke” to mean any soft drink, including Sprite, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, etc.)
For lunch in Spain, you might meet up with friends around 1or 1:30 PM, giving you a nice hour or two of vermouth-drinking before your 2 or 3 PM lunch reservation. And if it’s a pre-dinner aperitif, you’d likely suggest meeting up around 8 or 8:30 PM.
So why is vermouth the go-to aperitivo? Well, no one’s totally sure, to be honest. But the common idea is that the herbs and spices in its recipe make it medicinal, and therefore, soothing and healthy for the stomach. Obviously, take that with a grain of salt.
How Do I Order Vermouth?
Ideally, in a good Spanish bar, you won’t have much of a choice. There’ll be one vermouth, and it’ll be on tap. That’s the one you want. If you ask for a vermouth drink in Spain and you see them pick up a bottle of Martini, abort mission. That stuff isn’t even Spanish! And to add insult to injury, it’s usually much more expensive than anything on tap.
Drinking Vermouth in Spain: Brands to Try
Choosing a vermouth in Spain can feel overwhelming, but to truly assimilate to life in Spain, you must know your vermouth basics. This is important! So, learning which brand to order or to have on-hand is key.
But how can you sort through the options and know which brands are best? In Spain, my favorite vermouth brands can be found at most specialty stores or even supermarkets. Depending on where you are located, you can try ordering these vermouth brands online. Or, specialty liquor or wine stores may carry some options.
Here are some favorite brands to try:
- Yzaguirre (commonly found)
- Miró (commonly found)
- Iris (easily found in Madrid)
- Zarro (easily found in Madrid)
- St. Petroni (lately becoming more popular)
If you can get your hands on vermouth made by my favorite sherry producer, Lustau, do yourself the favor of buying it. You won’t regret it.
Vermut in Spain
Here are some favorite places to drink vermut in Spain (note the Spanish spelling here to familiarize yourself in restaurants and when reading menu boards):
Where to Drink Vermut in Madrid
- Casa Alberto, Calle Huertas, 18
- Latazo (inside the Mercado de Antón Martín), Calle Santa Isabel, 5
- Taberna de Angél Sierra, Calle San Gregorio, 2
- Los Gatos, Calle de Jesús, 2
Where to Drink Vermut in Barcelona
- Bodega Montferry, Carrer de Violant d’Hongria Reina d’Arago, 105
- V de Vermut, Carrer de Manso, 1
Where to Drink Vermut in Valencia
- Restaurante Bocatin, Carrer de Calatrava, 21
- Taberna La Senia, Carrer de la Cenia, 2
Try This Fun Vermouth Spritz Cocktail!
Just in time for the spring and summer months, this Spanish-style spritz is a refreshing take on a classic cocktail.
Vermouth’s complex flavors and ingredients add depth and interest as a cocktail base. This recipe makes one drink. Here’s how to make it:
- 1 part vermouth (try to use some of my favorite and recommended brands above!)
- 1 part cava (use your favorite or ask for a recommendation at your local wine shop)
- Splash of sparkling water (unflavored)
- Fresh orange slices
How to Put it Together
Place ice in a large wine glass. Pour vermouth over ice. Add cava. Top with a splash of sparkling water. Lightly stir with a cocktail stirrer or straw. Garnish the spritz with a fresh orange slice. Enjoy!
Pro tip: avoid excessively stirring the cocktail. You want to keep the cava and sparkling bubbles fresh. For the same carbonation concerns, these cocktails should be made to order and not prepared in batches (unless consumed immediately).
What Food Goes Best With Vermouth?
You may be wondering what food goes best with Vermouth? Here are some simple food pairings you’ll probably see in many Spanish bars. Or if you’re serving vermouth at home, these ideas can round out your aperitivo party.
Olives are a classic aperitivo in Spain. In most bars, you’ll find the common manzanilla variety. These are meaty green olives. They can be served dry or with oil. Manzanilla is the perfect, easy accompaniment to vermouth.
Potato chips provide the ideal salty and addictive crunch. They make sipping vermouth that much smoother. To step up your potato chip game, try new gourmet flavors like lemon and black pepper.
Almonds are another crunchy, but healthier, vermouth pairing. When in Spain, go with locally sourced Marcona almonds. These delicious almonds are roasted in olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Marcona’s slightly sweet and soft flavor makes them the ideal snack pairing with vermouth.
My absolute favorite vermouth food pairing are boquerones en vinagre. Boquerones (anchovies) are filleted and marinated en vinagre (in vinegar). The marinade typically includes garlic, olive oil, and some herbs. Outside of Spain, quality boquerones en vinagre may be tricky to find. But if you’re drinking vermouth in Spain, be sure to order this dish!
Conservas (tinned fish) are quality packed seafood. Many bars in Spain serve conservas by simply opening the lid and placing the fish on a plate! If you’re buying conservas in a Spanish specialty shop or supermarket, there is no shortage of options. En escabeche (marinated) is a common style of tinned fish. But you can try other fish preparations like en salsa (in sauce) or en aceite (oil-packed). Mejillones (mussels) or anchoas (anchovies) work especially well with vermouth.
The variety of tinned fish can feel overwhelming! Here are a few brand recommendations:
- El Pescador de Arosa
- Ramon Franco
- La Farola
Still, looking for more vermouth food pairing ideas? Check out 5 simple Spanish dishes for inspiration.
Drinking Vermouth in Spain? Refer to Our Ultimate Guide and Enjoy!
Drinking vermouth in Spain is a great way to experience the culture. Let us know in the comments if we forgot to include your favorite vermouth bar. We’re always up to try somewhere new!