Vermouth is wine that has been flavoured and fortified; the flavouring used will vary from maker to maker. The wines used are lesser-quality wines, whose taste is improved by the herbs and fruits used to flavour it.
There are two main kinds of Vermouth; dry (also called French or white) with an average alcohol content of 16%, and sweet (also called Italian or red) with an average alcohol content of 18%.
Vermouth can be used as an Apéritif, as a mix, or in cooking.
Vermouth, like Pernod and Chartreuse, used to use the herb wormwood for the bitter component of its flavouring. Wormwood use is now legally banned in high quantities because it can be toxic in large enough doses, and other herbs are used instead to give the bitter element. Wormwood was also used in Absinthe, which was banned entirely in the early 1900s.
Store indefinitely at room temperature before and after opening.
Vermouth was originally made with wormwood to give it its bitterness. Wormwood is no longer used, owing to its potentially hallucinogenic properties. Other herbs are now used to give the bitterness.
Red Vermouth was developed by the Italians in Turino in the early part of the 1700s; the French developed the white version at the end of the 1700s.
The word Vermouth comes from the German word for the herb wormwood, “Wermut”, which meant “man courage”. There’s a chemical in wormwood called “thujone” which, if it doesn’t kill you first, can apparently fire up your libido — thus, presumably the “man courage.”