In short, Vermouth is a fortified wine that has been flavored with herbs, spices, flowers and other botanicals. The word “vermouth” come from the German word for wormwood, which is often used to flavor vermouth.
The process of creating Vermouth starts by making a low alcohol wine from a neutral white wine grape, like Trebbiano. Distilled spirits are added to boost the alcohol level. For sweet vermouth, sugar syrup is added. Colorings may be added for red vermouth. Afterwards, the wine is aged along with the flavoring ingredients. Every producer has their own recipe which is a closely guarded secret, but ingredients can include wormwood, bitter roots or bark, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, ginger, citrus peel, chamomile, hyssop, coriander, juniper, oregano, and sage. The Destilerias Acha Atxa Vino Vermouth Blanco tastes like Thanksgiving in a glass – savory herbs, apples, and a bit of sweetness.
Historically, Vermouth was used as a medicinal tonic. The wormwood was thought to cure imbalances in yellow bile, one of the four humors. The intended result was for the patient to feel less irritable and restless, and more ambitious. It sounds like maybe the alcohol was more of the effective ingredient than the wormwood! In modern times, Vermouth is drunk on its own as an aperitif or mixed in cocktails. The most common cocktails containing vermouth are Martinis (Gin and Vermouth) and Manhattans (Whiskey, Sweet Vermouth and Bitters).
Vermouth can also be used in cooking where the recipe calls for a white wine. The vermouth will add more savoriness to the dish than a standard white wine.