We are an importer, exporter & wholesaler of alcoholic beverages & food with type 14 public warehouse & fulfillment service

The 15 Best Sweet Vermouths for Your Manhattan (2024)

The Manhattan is easily the most famous of the cocktails named after New York’s five boroughs and, many would argue, the best by some margin. A carefully balanced mix of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters, with a cocktail cherry garnish, it is a timeless masterpiece.

As with many of the so-called “classics,” the Manhattan seems to inspire debate among the cocktail cognoscenti — namely over whether rye or bourbon should hold the role of base spirit. To them, we say: Use what you damn please! But if it’s historical accuracy you seek, reach for rye, no ifs, ands, or buts.

The problem with this debate is the detraction from a more pertinent discussion: which vermouth to choose. It’s easy to overlook this component of the cocktail, as vermouth is cheaper than whiskey; the options at most liquor stores are generally fewer; and given the fortified wine’s lower ABV content, it’s easy to dismiss vermouth as a supporting actor at best. The latter may be true to some degree, but for as long as the Academy Awards continue to dole out golden statues for the role, we will continue to argue the importance of choosing the right vermouth for your Manhattan.

In this case, the golden rule is that the bottle should be a sweet style of vermouth, arriving with an amber — if not vibrant red — hue, and infused with an array of botanicals. Beyond that, it’s a case of diving into the details.

The myriad styles, profiles, and countries of origin of sweet vermouth actually make the whiskey selection quite simple by comparison. This is why we took on the task of tasting more than 40 bottles to highlight the best of the best.

Listed in alphabetical order, here are the 15 best sweet vermouths for your Manhattan.

Antica Torino Vermouth di Torino

This is a stellar example of floral and aromatic sweet vermouth. The palate starts sweet, but is countered by a complex bitter finish. While its aromas suggest it may be a step too far for such a delicately balanced cocktail, this vermouth delivers a Manhattan that is more perfumed than one might imagine possible.

Average price: $30

Calissano Vermut di Torino Superiore Rosso

Gavi and Langhe Nebbiolo provide the majority base for this clean, lively, and balanced sweet vermouth. Intense wormwood is balanced by caramel and vanilla notes, translating to a Manhattan that’s full of character but doesn’t stray too far from the profile you might be familiar with when mixing with more mass-market offerings (in a good way). Its herbs and spices — particularly the wormwood — serve to amplify the herbaceousness of the rye, bringing out a vibrant and enjoyable green note.

Average price: $28

Carpano Antica Formula 1786

A burly bartender staple, Carpano Antica serves the archetypal sweet vermouth profile, but with extra layers and nuance — like drinking a great bottle of red wine that’s spent some time in a decanter. Just as it does when mixed in a Negroni, Carpano Antica hits all the notes you’d expect from a classic Manhattan but dials them up a notch. The result is a cocktail that delivers all that you crave, and then some.

Average price: $37

Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino

Distinct vanilla aromas quickly indicate this vermouth will complement those gained by the whiskey during maturation, while its bittersweet palate seems the perfect match for Angostura. Those predictions are soon confirmed, though what is surprising is just how effective this vermouth is in allowing the rye whiskey to shine. When you’re pulling out a baller bottle of rye to mix in cocktails, look no further than Cocchi.

Average price: $27

Conde de Artoiz Vermouth de Garnacha

Despite its darker hue and the fact most sweet vermouths arrive in bottles adorned with red labels and detailing, this style of aromatized wine is typically made using a white wine base. Not here, though, with juicy and fruity Spanish Garnacha (Grenache) employed instead, alongside the usual secretive blend of botanicals. It serves a surprisingly chocolaty Manhattan, which prompted us to opt for an orange twist garnish instead of a cherry.

Average price: $26

Contratto Vermouth Rosso

Produced in Piedmont, Italy, this is a vibrant sweet vermouth with a noticeably fruity and floral character. Those flavors and aromas make it an ideal candidate for highballs made with mineral water or tonic, but then you’d be depriving yourself of a lean, expressive Manhattan that’s perfect for summertime.

Average price: $27

Dos Deus Red Vermouth

Produced in Spain’s famed (red-winemaking) Priorat region, this herbaceous, spicy-sweet vermouth contains 40 botanicals and is aged for six months in red wine and sherry barrels. Mixed with whiskey and bitters, it yields a Manhattan so rich and concentrated that the final cocktail verges on Old Fashioned territory. With a chocolaty finish, this is another that could benefit from an orange or citrus twist — along with a cherry, if you so wish.

Average price: $30

Guerin Vermouth Rouge

A blend of Pineau des Charentes and red and white wines, Guerin’s sweet vermouth pops with notes of candied apples, quince paste, and tart red candies. The bright and fruity Manhattan it mixes therefore comes as no surprise, and if the season allows, we’d even be tempted to finish with a fresh red cherry garnish.

Average price: $22

Mata Vermouth Tinto

Despite its northern Spanish origin, this sweet vermouth is more akin to French offerings, with a drier profile, vibrant herbaceousness, and little in the way of oxidative notes that sherry-based vermouths typically present. Those characteristics set up an equally dry Manhattan, with intermittent bursts of spearmint and piney wood notes.

Average price: $21

Mulassano Vermouth Rosso

Tasted on its own, this Vermouth di Torino begins with subtle aromas of alpine herbs and botanicals, and just a hint of fruit and sweetness. The palate — much like the Manhattan we ultimately enjoyed it in — is another story: intense, concentrated, with astounding balance. If you sit for a moment to contemplate, you can decipher each component of the cocktail, but the marriage is so harmonious that the drink is ultimately much greater than the sum of its parts. This is a stunner.

Average price: $32

Noilly Prat Rouge

Twenty-nine different herbs and spices sourced from around the world contribute expressive aromas to this French vermouth. It’s pleasant and approachable on the palate, absent of the grippy bitterness that can be challenging. The vermouth’s herbaceous character elevates the rye whiskey’s dill pickle aromas when mixed in a Manhattan. It’s a solid pick for mixing textbook versions of this timeless cocktail.

Average price: $14

Poli Gran Bassano Rosso Vermouth

Another red-wine-based vermouth, this Italian expression is crafted from Merlot grapes in the heart of the Veneto, close to the home region of Grappa production. The base wine is evident in its bright ruby hue, while its fruit-forward profile is tempered by complex herbs, spices, and bitterness. Opt for this if you’d like a rich, ripe red-fruited Manhattan that finishes surprisingly dry and tannic.

Average price: $25

Punt e Mes

The name Punt e Mes translates to “point and a half,” and loosely refers to the vermouth’s composition: one part vermouth, half a part intensely bitter liqueur. The latter really stands out: This vermouth is exceedingly bitter, with pronounced wormwood, herbs, and spice notes. Punt e Mes mixes a notably dark Manhattan that looks like an aged oloroso sherry. Despite this being a distinctly bitter vermouth, it integrates seamlessly with the Angostura bitters and the rye, providing an added layer of textural complexity in a cocktail that grabs your attention.

Average price: $27

Vermouth Routin Rouge

Like a decadent winter dessert bottled as aromatic fortified wine, Vermouth Routin exudes notes of fruit cake, brown sugar, and baking spices. Slightly fuller-bodied than other vermouths, it lends the Manhattan a plush, velvety texture. Meanwhile, its confectionery character riffs wonderfully against the spiced Angostura bitters.

Average price: $22

Lustau Vermut Rojo

Most producers promote their proprietary mix of herbs and spices when marketing their vermouths. This blend of nutty amontillado and luscious Pedro Ximénez sherries proves that a high-quality base wine is just as important. Rich and decadent — even before the cherry enters the equation — the bite of rye is present in this Manhattan, but it’s softened by the Lustau. This combination is balance, exemplified.

Average price: $23


Why do you use sweet vermouth in a Manhattan?

Sweet vermouth adds subtle sweetness, bitterness, and spice to a Manhattan.

What kind of bitters go in a Manhattan?

Angostura bitters are typically used in a classic Manhattan recipe.

Should you refrigerate sweet vermouth?

Absolutely! While it’s slightly fortified and contains sugar, sweet vermouth’s relatively low ABV means that it will begin to oxidize as soon as the bottle is opened. Storing in the refrigerator will help slow down the degradation process and allow you to enjoy it for longer.

How long does open sweet vermouth last?

The lifespan of open sweet vermouth varies depending on a number of factors, including whether it’s stored in the refrigerator or not. Following all best practices — including placing in the fridge when not in use — allows sweet vermouth to stay in good condition for up to a month.

The article The 15 Best Sweet Vermouths for Your Manhattan (2024) appeared first on VinePair.

Leave a Comment

Resize text-+=