Vermouth (also spelled vermuth) is a fortified wine flavoured with aromatic herbs
and spices ("aromatized" in the trade) using closely-guarded recipes (trade secrets).
Some vermouth is sweetened; however, unsweetened, or dry, vermouth tends to be bitter.
The person credited with the first vermouth recipe, Antonio Benedetto Carpano from
Turin, Italy, chose to name his concoction "vermouth" in 1786 because he was inspired
by a German wine flavoured with wormwood, a herb most famously used in distilling
absinthe. The modern German word Wermut (Wermuth in the spelling of Carpano's time)
means both wormwood and vermouth. The herbs were originally used to mask raw flavours
of cheaper wines, imparting a slightly medicinal "tonic" flavour.
There are three general styles of vermouth, in order from driest to sweetest: extra
dry, bianco/white, and sweet/red. Sweet red vermouth is drunk as an apéritif, often
straight up, as well as in mixed drinks like the Manhattan. Dry white vermouth, along
with gin, is a key ingredient in the mixing of martinis. Red vermouths are sometimes
referred to as Italian vermouths and white vermouths as French vermouths, although
not all Italian vermouths are red and not all white vermouths are French.
Punt e mes
Punt e mes is an Italian vermouth. It is dark brown in colour and has a bitter flavour.
Punt e mes literally means "point and a half" in Piedmontese and owes its name to
a sudden rise of the stock market (naturally, of a point and a half) which greatly
benefitted the Carpano distilleries, which then created the vermouth brand to commemorate
the occasion. It can be used as a substitute for regular rosso vermouth in such drinks
as the Americano, Manhattan and Negroni. Punt e mes has a strong, distinctive flavour,
half-way between regular rosso vermouth and Campari.