Sunday, September 29, 2019

Vermouth a Bibliography

I started planning these posts about vermouth back in June, thinking I'd write them in August. By the end of July I realised I hadn't, and wasn't going to be able to try nearly as many vermouth's as I'd like to give a proper overview. I still haven't. I've not said anything about rosé styles, still not tried an amber vermouth, know hardly anything about the sweeter bianco vermouths, and so on (and on, and on...)

Despite all those gaps and deficiencies I have managed to learn quite a bit, and certainly have a much deeper appreciation for the category. I had always thought of vermouth as being a support act to the main spirit in a cocktail - now I'm behind for to think of the spirit as the straight man to the star act of the vermouth. I've also rediscovered the pleasure of drinking Vermouth on its own or mixed with soda/tonic/ginger.

It's a drink worth getting enthusiastic about, a civilised, modestly alcoholic, sophisticated thing that is endlessly versatile. There is undoubtedly a style for everybody who would care to raise a glass. With all of that in mind the best way to wind up this series for now seems to be a short bibliography of good books to have to hand if you want to explore further.

Jack Adair Bevan's 'A Spirited Guide to Vermouth' (published by Headline, rrp £16.99 in hardback) was my starting point. It still vaguely frustrates me that this book doesn't have an index but in every other respect it's excellent. There's a lot of information about history, culture, ingredients, styles, how to make it, how to drink it, cocktail recipes, food recipes, a much longer bibliography for the interested, and more. It's also an enjoyable book to read

Kate Hawkings 'Aperitif' is on my wish list. I keep going to look at it in bookshops with a wistful expression and the knowledge that impending redundancy means I need to be sensible about what I buy. It has pictures, which Bevan's book doesn't, some brilliant looking cocktail recipes, and also looks interesting to read.

Kay Plunkett-Hogge's 'Aperitivo' touches on Vermouth in passing, her concern here is more La Dolce Vita, but it's a brilliant book full of things you might want to nibble. Perfect for planning elegant cocktail parties, and best of all full of Kay's writing which is not to be missed.

The Savoy Cocktail Book is a classic, and I'm very attached to my copy. I refer to it a lot - it's not that it's drinks are always the best or most reliable - there are some deservedly forgotten things in there, but you will always find something excellent. There's also no better place to learn about the importance of proportions or find inspiration.

'Sip' from Sipsmith is one for gin fans, 100 gin cocktails with only 3 ingredients, it keeps things relatively simple. My conviction is that the drinks you make at home should be both high quality and simple so this is exactly my kind of thing. Its good on both the classics, and more obscure cocktails, all calibrated for the contemporary palate (which the Savoy book is not).

Ambrose Heath's 'Good Drinks' from 1939 reprinted by Faber & Faber, is split between hard drinks and soft drinks, which is why it's useful to have as well as the Savoy book - also because Ambrose Heath is a delight to read. I bought it more to read than use because of how much I've enjoyed some of his food titles (Persephone have published a couple, as well as Faber & Faber) but unlike the cook books I've found I use it a lot.


  1. I have enjoyed this series of posts though I have yet to look into Vermouths in general or particular. I really am not au fait with them; I wish that one were able to go to a shop for little tastings, as one may do in Scotland when looking for whiskies and gins.

    Have you given much thought to where your future career lies? I wish you the very best for that.

  2. I've really enjoyed your vermouth posts - lots of interesting vermouths coming out of Australia at the moment too.