Like its neighbors to the north (France) and east (Italy), Spain has a long tradition of making and drinking vermouth. Vermouth, or white wine fortified with herbs and spices, is widely known for its aromatics, characteristics sought after in American cocktails. In Spain, vermút (no “h” here) has its own hour of the day and its own bars, known as vermuterias where the aperitif is enjoyed straight from the bottle, right alongside beer and wine – a drink to be enjoyed before dinner.
Though the entire category has exploded in recent years to include a diverse range of flavors and styles, vermouths typically fall into one of three categories: sweet (red), bianco (white) and extra-dry. Sweet red vermouth, the style most popular in Spain, is what is typically added to the classic Manhattan cocktail. Bianco vermouth is typically pale or white in color and falls in-between sweet and extra-dry. Extra-dry vermouth is the driest in style and likely the vermouth James Bond used in his extra-dry martini.
Drink Vermouth like a Spaniard
In Spain, vermouth got its start as a popular drink on Sundays before or after church (and remains popular as a drink at Sunday socials). Local lore says that all those botanicals and herbs are an aid to digestion, making vermouth a popular pre-meal drink, one ideally paired with tapas. The most famous Spanish brands – Yzaguirre and Miró – hail from Catalonia though most Spanish vermouth is sweet and red, no matter where it comes from. Styles are changing in Spain, too, and lighter, drier vermouths are moving in on the old guard. To enjoy vermouth like a Spaniard, drink your vermouth “up” or on the rocks with a twist of orange peel. You can also order vermouth con sifón – a bottle of fizzy water will be served alongside your copa, perfect for topping a glass and diluting the sweetness a bit. What tapas you choose to pair it with is up to you.
Where to Drink Vermouth in Murcia
Literally every restaurant and bar will serve locally-made and other varieties of Spanish vermouth. Pick up a bottle to enjoy at home at La Vermuteria Papá Juan to experience the flavor of vermouth “from the old days.” For an introduction to vermouth at a café, pop into El Imperdible where over 50 Spanish and European vermouths are available by the glass and are paired with local tapas such as Murcian solecico or la marinera with prawn, Russian potato salad and anchovy. In los Alcazáres, El Chato serves larger restaurant meals and a range of vermouths, including Yzaguirre Reserva and vermouths from Bodegas Viña Elena made in nearby Jumilla. But really, pick a restaurant and stop in one afternoon for a glass of vermouth and the true flavor of Spanish vermouth.
And once you choose your Spanish Dream Casa, you can toast with a nice Spanish vermouth. ¡Salud!