Vermouth is having something of a moment. Once the preserve of dusty back bar shelves, or for merely rinsing a martini glass before being thrown away, it’s now back on top several centuries after it first came to prominence. The fortified wine was originally created as a medicinal drink almost two thousand of years ago, but was first served in its modern guise as an aperitif in Turin, Italy, towards the end of the 18th century. Although it’s well-known for its use in Martinis and Negronis, the true vermouth lover drinks his neat, with a sliver of lemon peel and perhaps a dash of bitters and maraschino liqueur. Here’s the best bars to sample it in London this summer.
Vermuteria, Kings Cross
Inspired by classic French, Italian and Spanish cafés, Vermuteria is a relaxed spot under the arches in Coal Drops Yard. Strung with glimmering lights and with long sharing tables laid out below, Vermuteria is the place to go to relax, unwind and meet friends at the end of a long day. It features at least 30 different vermouths at any one time, including vintage blends, new artisanal bottlings from around Europe, and even some British brands from time to time – the London-based Asterley Bros is currently on tap. A hefty selection of vermouth cocktails and tapas-style small plates round off the menu.
38/39 Coal Drops Yard, London N1C 4DQ, vermuteria.cc
New London bar and restaurant Sabor is the brainchild of Nieves Barragan and José Etura, both formerly of tapas behemoth Barrafina. While the restaurant boasts fresh fish and seafood dishes, and meats cooked in a woodfired oven, head to the bar for the very best in Spanish vermouth. The choices are simple, but cover all bases: four rosso vermouths are on offer, as well as three bianco, running the gamut between sweet and dry formulations. Take yours standing at the beautifully tiled bar, while sampling piquillo croquetas and a selection of jamón Ibérico.
Mele e Pere, Soho
Vermouth lovers, rejoice. Mele e Pere is in many ways the holy grail of London vermouth bars. It not only has an extensive menu of over 40 different vermouths to sample, but it also makes its own, as well as putting on masterclasses for aspiring vermouthiers who want to infuse their own signature blends. This is the ultimate after-work pitstop for a vermouth aperitif and a selection of simple Italian sharing dishes.
Morito, Exmouth Market
This cosy tapas destination is a firm favourite. Although petite, it packs a punch with its authentic Spanish tapas dishes and a considered selection of vermouth drinks to pair with them. From the light and dry Dolin, to aromatic Lillet Blanc and zesty El Bandarra, there’s a drink for everyone – and it’s worth working through the menu to determine your favourite (ideally when you don’t have to work the next day).
Tapas Brindisa, Soho
With its bright orange awning, al fresco tables and wood-panelled bar complete with hanging legs of jamón, Tapas Brindisa is always a tempting sight when you walk down Broadwick Street. Alongside its enticing menu of cured meats, cheeses and traditional small plates, they also do authentic Spanish vermouth by the glass – perfect for pairing with the aforementioned tapas dishes in true Mediterranean style.
Temper, Covent Garden
The latest addition to Neil Rankin’s stable of barbecue restaurants, Temper in Covent Garden focuses on a compelling menu of simple pastas, ragus and cured meat pizzas cooked in wood-fired ovens, all served with lashings of aromatic vermouth on tap to wash it down. It’s proof that vermouth is well and truly back – and it looks like it’s here to stay.