History of Vermouth

Joined Jul 24, 2001
Some months ago, kokopuffs started a thread about vermouth. An excellent article in Saveurs’ October issue, reminded me of that. So, I copy some extracts from this article of Margeurite Thomas that have to do with the history of the product.

“The firm Martini & Rossi is the world’s largest producer of Vermouth.
“Martini and Rossi” was founded only n 1863, but vermouth – or something very much like it-dates back nearly to the threshold of history itself.

Early Mediterranean cultures are known to have improved the flavor of their date and grape wines with honey, resins, and a host of herbs and spices included pepper, cinnamon and ginger.

Besides tasting dandy and raising the spirits of people who drunk them, many of these wines were though to promote good health when combined with specific leaves and blossoms.

On of the most popular classic botanical additives was wormwood ( Artemisia Absinthum), a herb related to terragon and sagebrush and prized in many cultures for its curative powers as well as its ability to stimulate appetite and aid digestion.
Because wormwood was an important ingredient, the beverage became known as wermut- from the German word for the herb. Soon it was gallicized to vermout; and eventually, somewhere along the line, the h was tacked on to the end.

A Piedmontese wine-shop owner named Antonio Benedetto Caprano created the first commercially produced wine flavored with botanicals in 1786”. […]

“One last thing about vermouth: it’s likely the only apéritif ever to have starred in a movie –The Secret of Santa Victoria, based on a 1966 novel by Robert Chrichton and featuring Anthony Quinn and Anna Magniani. Set, in Cinzano’s hometown, the film is based on the (true) story of hardy citizens who risked torture and death to hide more than a million bottles of vermouth – the community’s only revenue source, it slaked their daily thirst and brought joy to their lives – from occupying German forces during WWII.

In Chrichton’s book, one character gives words to the villagers’ sentiments about their vermouth: “ We have grown a wine fit for the saints””!
Joined Aug 4, 2000
Wormwood may well be addictive and hallucinogenic. Think of the painting entitled "The Absinthe Drinker" by Degas, she looks really out of it.

Further background on Vermouth can be read in the Williams Sonoma BAR GUIDE. A must-have for anyone interested in entertaining.
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Aha! The article had a paragraph on that but I omitted it because I was interested in the historical perspective.

According to the author of the article, in vermouth, they use the flower and NOT the leaves of wormwood.
It seems that the leaves do all the harm...
Joined Nov 6, 2007
A complex painting which caused a storm in a London gallery when it was sold. It was not originally called "The Absinthe Drinker" but "In a Cafe" She does look wasted...or maybe a moment of reflection duing L'Heure Verte? Not sure. If you look at her shoe there is a suggestion she is playing footsie with her friend after an argument. These homemade absinthe kits are discussed in another thread.

Wormwood is not addictive, but it does contain thujone which is banned by the FDA in alcohol...basically 'cus they thought it was hallucinogenic way back when. I'm not sure if you'll see Green Fairy's when you drink absinthe...as it's all much weaker thesedays.

Back to Vermouth...I'll look at my papers and see what I can find. It's got a very ancient history as I recall.

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