Vermouth is a classic and timeless drink that has been around since the Greek ages. It is believed to have been created by Hippocrates when he macerated wine with wormwood and other spices. Over time, other aromatics and ingredients were added until the version that we know and love today was created in Italy at the end of the 18th century.
It’s always nice to have some vermouth on hand, given that it is a key ingredient in an endless number of cocktails and serves as the perfect apéritif. But just how long can you have that bottle of vermouth sitting on your kitchen counter?
Does vermouth go bad? Vermouth will never actually spoil, like food does, and has a relatively long shelf life. It lasts much longer than wine, but not as long as other hard liquors.
An unopened bottle of vermouth will last you about 3-4 years when properly stored, but as soon as you crack that bottle open, shelf life declines significantly. An opened bottle of dry vermouth will last about a month before losing quality while an opened bottle of sweet vermouth has about 2 months until its flavor starts to decline.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about preserving vermouth, like how to properly store it and how to know when it’s time to break open a new bottle.
Can Vermouth Go Bad?
Vermouth probably won’t spoil to the point of making you sick like many other foods and beverages will, but its quality will certainly decline over time. Vermouth’s high alcohol content helps to prevent bacteria and mold from growing, though it should be noted that, while highly unlikely, it is certainly possible for vermouth to become contaminated and spoil.
Vermouth will, however, lose quality over time. If it is not properly stored or if it sits around too long after opening it, it will likely have lost some of its flavor or may taste different than you remembered it. Keep in mind that dry vermouth will lose quality quicker than sweet vermouth thanks to the fact that sugar helps to act as a preserving agent.
If you’re not sure whether or not your vermouth has gone bad, pay close attention to any changes in color, smell, and flavor.
How to Store Vermouth?
Properly storing vermouth is key in ensuring that it maintains its quality for the maximum amount of time. An unopened bottle of vermouth should always be stored in a cool, dark place. This means keeping it out of direct light, so a closet or a pantry is ideal.
Additionally, keep your vermouth away from any possible heat sources, like the oven or the radiator. If you live somewhere that gets very hot in the summer and you don’t have air conditioning, you can even store an unopened bottle of vermouth in the refrigerator.
An opened bottle of vermouth, on the other hand, should always be stored in the fridge, where a bottle of dry vermouth will last about a month and a bottle of sweet vermouth should be used within 2.
Can You Freeze Vermouth?
Though other alcoholic beverages, namely hard liquors like vodka and gin, can be frozen, you should never put vermouth in the freezer.
Vermouth doesn’t have a high enough alcohol content to withstand freezing, so it will certainly harden at low enough temperatures. There is really no reason to do this, especially considering the fact that freezing and thawing vermouth could potentially have a negative impact on its flavor.
How Long Does Vermouth Last?
When properly stored, an unopened bottle of vermouth has an impressive shelf life. Unopened bottles of vermouth will last between 3 and 4 years when kept in a cool, dark place, though you should always check on the quality of an old bottle of vermouth before drinking.
On the other hand, an opened bottle of vermouth has a much shorter shelf life. Opened bottles of dry vermouth will last up to 1 month when stored in the fridge, while opened bottles of sweet vermouth can be enjoyed within 2 months of opening.
If you choose to consume vermouth after these recommended time periods, it will probably still be drinkable, but it will very likely have lost some of its quality and flavor.
How Can You Tell If Vermouth Has Gone Bad?
If you have stored your vermouth properly and it is still within its recommended time frame, it will probably taste good. However, you should always double check on the state of your vermouth if you know it has been open for a while or aren’t sure how long that bottle has been sitting in your pantry.
First off, pay attention to the smell and color of the liquid. If it smells off or has experienced any change in color, it’s probably best to move on to a new bottle.
You can also tell if vermouth has gone bad by its taste. Vermouth should taste bright and aromatic, but old vermouth will have a flat and dull flavor. In the worst case scenario, if it is very old, it can even be unpleasant to drink.
Is It OK to Drink Old Vermouth?
Drinking old vermouth probably won’t make you sick, but it can be quite unpleasant. It will also give an undesirable flavor to your Manhattan or Negroni, so you’ll want to be sure that you aren’t using old vermouth in your cocktail mixes either.
So while it is still safe to consume vermouth after the recommended time frame (3-4 years for an unopened bottle, 1 month for an opened bottle of dry vermouth, and 2 months for an opened bottle of sweet vermouth), it will very likely have declined in quality and flavor.
What Exactly Is Vermouth?
Vermouth is an aromatized, fortified wine made from white grapes and flavored with a variety of spices and other ingredients. While originally used for medicinal purposes, vermouth now serves as an essential ingredient in a variety of cocktails, along with being one of the most popular apéritif beverages.
A low-alcohol white wine is used as the base for vermouth, regardless of whether it is a white or red vermouth. For sweet vermouths, sugar syrup is added, then the wine is mixed with alcohol, usually a neutral grape spirit.
The wine is then transferred to large barrels or tanks where the dry ingredients have already been added. These typically include spices and aromatics like cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, orange peel, and chamomile, just to name a few.
Sweet vermouths usually have a sugar content between 10% and 15% while the sugar content for dry vermouth tends to be lower than 5%. Most vermouths have an alcohol content between 16% and 18%.
What Is the Best Way To Use Vermouth?
Vermouth can be used in a wide variety of ways. One of the most basic and classic ways to serve the drink is alone as an apéritif, in which case it is served with ice, olives, and an orange or lemon slice. This is a very typical drink in Spain, for example, where it is commonly enjoyed on a weekend afternoon or before a meal.
However, vermouth is also an essential ingredient in a number of classic cocktails. First off, a Martini is made with dry vermouth and gin and is garnished with a lemon peel and/or olive.
Sweet vermouth is also a key ingredient in a number of drinks. The beloved Manhattan is made with bourbon or whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters and is garnished with a maraschino cherry.
Finally, the timeless Negroni is made by mixing 1 part Campari, 1 part gin, and 1 part sweet vermouth. It is then served over ice with an orange peel. A similar cocktail, the Americano, also contains vermouth and Campari, but the gin is replaced with club soda, making it a less alcoholic alternative.