The word vermouth is derived from the German word for wormwood, wermut. Wormwood was the chief flavoring ingredient for vermouth until the herb was found to be poisonous. In 1786, Antonio Benedetto Carpano of Turin, Italy made the first sweet vermouth and dry vermouth came along in 1800, created by Joseph Noilly of France. There are many producers of vermouth, each using their own, often secret, recipe of herbs and botanicals.
All vermouths should be refrigerated after opening; dry for up to 6 months and others for up to 1 year.
Vermouth is a fortified wine, flavored with aromatic herbs and spices ("aromatized" in the trade) such as cardamom, cinnamon, marjoram and chamomile. Some vermouth is sweetened; unsweetened, or "dry" vermouth tends to be bitter. The person credited with inventing the 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 in vermouth were originally used to mask raw flavours of cheaper wines, imparting a slightly medicinal "tonic" flavour.
In addition to creating cocktails, vermouth can be used in place of white wine in cooking. Since it is fortified and shelf-stable while kept chilled, it makes a good substitute to keep on hand for cooking purposes since it will not sour as white wine. Vermouth is often used in poultry dishes; such as in the classic dish "Chicken Vermouth".
Vermouth is used in many cocktails, where it serves as a moderating agent to reduce the percentage of alcohol by volume in the drink and provide an herbal flavor. In his book The Joy of Mixology, Gary Regan categorizes these drinks as "French-Italian cocktails" because dry vermouth was traditionally referred to as French vermouth and sweet vermouth was traditionally referred to as Italian vermouth. The most well-known cocktails containing vermouth are the Martini and the Manhattan.