‘The vermouth hour’ is a Spanish expression and a traditional drink that revolves around a wine macerated with spices, accompanied with some food. It is usually taken before meals on weekends, as an aperitif.
It is a time between morning and midday when we had an aperitif, such as tapas, accompanied by vermouth, a drink made from wine, spices and fruits whose origin is in Italy.
In Spain, vermouth has a very special tradition that is of special interest to know. The most common variety produced in our country is red vermouth, which is sweeter and contains more spices, such as cinnamon.
What is Vermouth?
A vermouth is a fortified wine made with water, alcohol, botanical plants and optionally caramelized sugar, being a tradition the secret of the formula used by each manufacturer that does not indicate the proportion of plants, flowers and fruits.
The drink seeks a balance between sweet, bitter and acid, to provoke a long aftertaste that lingers on the palate and nose of the consumer. To obtain it, white wine is usually used although there is also Vermouth made with red wine, herbs such as rhubarb, hops, angelica, star anise, díctamo and, of course, wormwood. In addition, manufacturers also use spices such as cinnamon, vanilla and cardamom.
The Vermouth is an ancient drink that has its roots in ancient Egypt, (or even beyond), although in Spain, the art of making this drink has its fundamental headquarters in Reus, Catalonia, where one of the best Vermouths in the world is made.
Since the dawn of time, sedentary peoples have enjoyed the fruit of the grape, finding jars and amphorae that prove the taste for wine of very remote peoples. It seems that among other mixtures, spices were added to the must so that it would ferment taking its taste, and there is documentation that proves that the Egyptians were already making liqueurs with wormwood and other herbs.
This tradition was maintained by the Greeks who also macerated wormwood flowers in wine, adding also díctamo leaves, being a remedy for inappetence and other malnutrition problems. The Romans also picked up this Greek tradition, adding to the wine products such as honey and other herbs, which passed into the Middle Ages as being common in the Renaissance the use of spices in wines, very typical in Germany, France, and other regions where they were drinking it hot. On the other hand, Spanish Vermouth is only drunk cold.
Red Vermouth and white Vermouth
Red vermouth will suit you better if you want to drink something sweet, while white vermouth will be your choice if you are looking for a more citric taste. The difference between one and the other is the botanicals with which each bottle is made. The base is always white wine, sugar, alcohol and extracts of the herbs used to produce the infusion. But red wine is dominated by absinthe, which is why it is stronger, and white wine is dominated by citrus, which is why it is milder.
Experts say that white is less bitter and perhaps more floral and smooth, while red tastes of aromatic Mediterranean spices. But despite their nuances, both are sweet.
It should be noted that in Spain the most consumed vermouth is red vermouth, simply because it is the traditional Vermouth. White Vermouth is more recent, it has been more difficult to introduce it in the Spanish market.
Drinking Vermouth in Spain: everything you need to know
If we think of Vermouth, our minds usually jump immediately onto cocktails like a Martini or a Manhattan. And a British of an old time might think of the brand Dubonnet – a French Vermouth allegedly favorite of Queen Elizabeth and enjoyed an influx during the 1960s. In any case you’ve never known, Vermouths in Spain were different kinds. In contrast to being merely an ingredient in cocktail brews or consumed in a cocktail mixer, Spanish vermouth is distinctly an aperitif and preferably enjoyed on ice.
‘The vermouth hour’ is a tradition because it is not only important the Vermouth, it is an authentic bet that turns an aperitif into a base to talk about our climate, gastronomy and culture. At a time of consolidation of movements such as slow food – which understands the gastronomic product as pleasure, awareness and responsibility – the flavors of Vermouth have the responsibility to explain the land in which they are produced.
Gastronomic level, the richness of the producers is transmitted in the street and the word Vermouth gathers both the tradition of the drink and the social custom. At noon, the terraces of any of the localities of Spain offer a street show that brings together families and friends, gathered in one of the most characteristic spontaneous traditions of our territory, which is part of a gastronomic ideology.
Why is Vermouth popular in Spain?
Italy’s Vermouth dominated Barcelona in the mid 1800s while studious Spain spent no time in making Vermouth from its distilled white wine. Vermouth was eventually able to gain a place on the Spanish lunch schedule: La hora del Vermut (The Vermouth Time).
In the rest of Europe there is also the Vermouth Time but in this case it is before dinner. This is due to the traditions of each country, in Spain in the old days they used to have a red vermouth in the bars after church. It was a custom that over time was lost but now young people are recovering it, it is no longer after church but before meals on weekends, as an aperitif.
How do Spanish people drink Vermouth?
Spanish Vermouth is served cold with fresh ice. The next one is decorated with orange and lemon slices and olive oil. Some Spanish drinkers like to add some Sifon a splash which increases aroma and improves refreshing flavor especially on the summer days.
On holidays or weekends Spaniards go out to the bars to have a vermouth, they usually meet with their friends to have a good time, drink vermouth and eat tapas.
Going out with friends for a drink is something very common, now it has become fashionable to go out for a Vermouth, also thanks to this the quality of Spanish Vermouth has risen a lot. In addition, many wineries have started to produce vermouth in different flavors such as orange or strawberry.
Undoubtedly the vermouth time has returned to Spain to stay, it is a time of the day to enjoy good company and good food and drink. In recent times has regained its importance with the opening of many bars dedicated to this moment and this drink. Re-establishing the tradition that the Spaniards love so much.
There is something fundamental when serving vermouth, and that is that the drink must be very cold. In addition, it is complemented with some green olives. Of course, the accompaniment is key, and there are many possibilities to choose the appetizer.