Vermouth Gets a House-Made Upgrade

While the mass-produced vermouth at most places is fine in a mixed drink, it's hardly worth sipping straight. Enter the in-house, small-batch versions popping up in bars and restaurants across town.

Artisanal vermouth

(Photo by Dave Bradley, styling by Rowena Day/Ennis)

While the vermouth at most bars and restaurants is fine in a mixed drink, the mass-produced stuff is hardly worth sipping straight. But thanks to the movement toward crafting things in-house, palatable small-batch versions are now appearing at spots ranging from Eastern Standard to L’Espalier. Erbaluce’s Charles Draghi, meanwhile, has made his own vermouth for more than a decade, and at his Bay Village restaurant he stocks red and white varieties made with wine, brandy, fruit, and herbs from his garden.

For chef Will Gilson, who will open Bridgestreet in Inman Square this summer, homemade vermouth makes it possible to get creative despite a limited liquor license. “Without having hard alcohol, we’re trying to incorporate it into the styles of drinks at our restaurant,” he says. “Making it in-house allows us to highlight the flavors of the season.”

Savor the drink’s aromatics by keeping things simple. Draghi recommends ordering it with soda water and a twist, while Gilson goes even more basic during warmer months: “I have a glass of vermouth just on the rocks.”