How One Man is Spreading the Gospel of Vermouth
Samuel Boulton calls himself the Vermouth Ambassador, and his online tasting catalog aims to educate bartenders and consumers alike about all things vermouth.
Shrouded in mystery, vermouth makers would have you believe it’s all built on secret recipes, passed down from generation to generation with mythical ingredients picked from exotic locations. Even the bottles themselves provided little insight as to what exactly was stored inside.
There hasn't been a plethora of tools available to bartenders with which they could learn from, teach, and expand their knowledge of vermouth. We all have information at our fingertips with the likes of Google and spirit-focused websites (such as this one), but there's no single resource for the fortified wine most of us carry in our venues.
That’s why I created the Vermouth Ambassador, a resource designed to allow bartenders access into the world of vermouth. I believe knowledge should be free for all, so in early 2016 I began documenting my findings as I delved into the world of vermouth so that others could learn from and expand upon my own discoveries.
We live in an age where food products require all ingredients to be clearly labeled and nutritional information listed in great detail, and yet most of us couldn't tell you what exactly is in a bottle of vermouth. There are so many websites dedicated to the tasting notes of rum, whisk(e)y, gin, cognac, etc., but very little on vermouth. Additionally, I find vermouth's brand sites themselves are full of such esoteric tasting notes as "Wampee fruit, stardust, and golden sunshine" — hardly useful information.
After consulting with industry experts, I decided my first task would be to create an online catalog of vermouth brands and styles. The index was created as a "one stop shop" encompassing all the information one would want to know about aperitifs. Each vermouth catalogued includes their botanical composition, wine base, and sugar content, as well as the producer, retail price, origin, and ABV.
We also included some brand history and brand-specific bottle imaging when available. The index is an ongoing process, but at present we feature more than 60 different products with the aim of having over 100 by the end of 2017.
My second venture is incorporating this knowledge into accessible and visually interesting infographics. Designed by myself (with help from the team at BartenderHQ) for ease of use, the fortified wine wheel (below) is our next stage in vermouth education. Choosing to go beyond just vermouth, we looked at all types of fortified and aromatized wines. Our wheel breaks down the wines into smaller categories such as dry, white, rosé, sweet, and other (miscellaneous).
Each category is then sub-divided into five flavors: spiced, herbaceous, citrusy, fruity, and balanced. Due to the nature of these subdivisions, there were some less-dominant flavor categories, such as florals, which had to be left off so as not to over-complicate the visual. And last but not least, the wines were sorted into their appropriate flavor category.
With access to over 80 brands, many of these products slotted into their places easily, such as Byrrh Grand QuinQuina, which is a great sweet and fruity red, or Vya Sweet with its lovely Christmas-y notes. Others were a bit trickier, such as finding an herbal dry or a citrusy red, so I’m happy to say the hours spent tasting didn’t go to waste!
As we continue to explore the wonderful world of vermouth, I look forward to spreading our knowledge and tasting notes with the spirits industry through our ever-evolving website and infographics.