Episode 1: Should You Refrigerate Vermouth?
Having spent many years working in the hospitality industry, mainly resorts and hotels, vermouth lived in one place and one place only: the speed rack. And when it was time to close out, that bottle of Martini & Rossi never found its way to the refrigerator. Now, granted these were higher volume bars that went through bottles much faster than anyone at home would, it was never even a conversation
Fast forward five years, and the mere thought of storing your vermouth anywhere but a tightly controlled refrigerated environment gets you stern looks and evil eyes. It makes sense. It’s wine-based, it sits around for months or even years (at least at home), and it’s lower in alcohol that your average spirit sitting on the shelf.
But refrigerator space is hard to get. It has to compete with need-to-keep-cold items like beer, leftover pizza, milk, etc. If you collect bottles like I do, this starts to fill up fast, and before you know it, half of your fridge is stocked with bottles of vermouth or anything resembling vermouth. Given this fight for space, I thought there would be no better place to start than understanding whether or not you should be refrigerating your vermouth (which, if you’re like me, is anything but Martini & Rossi).
What is Vermouth?
Most people generally know that vermouth is an ingredient that you add to cocktails to make them taste better. But vermouth is in fact a fortified wine, just like port. This means it starts its journey to wine-hood, but before the grapes have the opportunity to fully ferment, vintners add a neutral spirit to the mix that kills off the yeast and thus, the fermentation process. This does two things:
Retains more sugar from the grapes as you’ve just killed off the yeast that eats the sugar
Raises the overall ABV of the final product
But wait, there’s more! Vermouth isn’t just a fortified wine, it’s an aromatized, fortified wine. This means it’s infused with flavoring agents such as herbs, roots, bark, and really anything else to spunk it up.
To do this experiment right, I needed three different bottles.
Bottle #1 - Opened for over a year, not refrigerated
Bottle #2 - Opened for over a year, refrigerated
Bottle #3 - Opened day of tasting
In order to get a real sense of the integrity of the flavor in all three bottles, I started with a blind taste test of them served neat. Then I moved onto a second test, more reminiscent of what you’d get served at a bar: Manhattans.
Experiment #1 - Neat, Blind Tasting
I was shocked at the results of this test. I could not tell one iota of difference between any of the bottles. In fact, I got every single one of my guesses wrong! Now I do taste a lot of cocktails and spirits, but I’m no sommelier. However, that’s also kind of the point. Neither are patrons at your bar or guests at your house. Maybe a somm would’ve done the same test and noticed subtleties in the nose or finish, but seriously, they tasted exactly the same.
Experiment #2 - Manhattans, Regular Tasting
No surprises here. I couldn’t tell the difference with them served neat, I sure as hell couldn’t tell the difference between them served in Manhattans.
No, you do not need to refrigerate your vermouth.