White vermouth is made from fortified wine, often as a way of using old wine or the leftover wine when the brewing is complete. The wine has various herbs and dry ingredients added that is unique depending upon the distiller. Vermouth can be an aperitif before meals or as an add-in to various cocktails. It was first designed as an alternative to red wine for women.
White vermouth will come in two different standards:
Sweet vermouth is most commonly seen as red but can also be white. Sweet vermouth was first created in Italy in the late 1700s.
Dry vermouth is the most common and is almost always white. This was created a few years later than sweet vermouth and was created in France, right around 1800. It is for this reason that dry vermouth is often called French vermouth.
There are many different distilleries that make vermouth. Because each one uses its own selection of herbs and other ingredients, each brand can take uniquely different. You may want to read reviews on the various ones so that you can decide on a brand that you want to try.
There are many, many recipes that you can make with white vermouth. As you expand into the recipes that use either the sweet or dry version, the recipes continue to increase.
Many simply like the flavor of the vermouth without actually adding it into the glass. This flavoring can be best achieved by purchasing a vermouth mister. It is a small stainless steel tube with a sprayer on the end where vermouth can be poured inside. The mister will then spritz a small amount of the liqueur into the glass to simply flavor the cocktail.
A true vodka martini employs dry white vermouth. Half a shot of vermouth along with two shots of vodka are added to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for about 30 seconds and then strain into a martini glass. Add a green olive on a skewer. If you want to make it a dirty martini, add a little splash of the olive brine into the martini as well.
A Gibson can also be made with dry vermouth. One part of it will be added to three parts of gin and shaken with ice and then strained into a glass or served on the rocks.
White vermouth is a very classic ingredient and can have many different purposes. Whether you choose the Italian sweet vermouth or the French dry vermouth, you will get a delicious aperitif (though some prefer it as a digestif, too) or a way to enhance many different cocktails. Many bars will have both sweet and dry behind their bar to be able to make any cocktail under the sun with it. You will be able to create many different cocktails by having vermouth in your home bar. The only decision you will need to make is which kind of vermouth you want to buy or if you're going to buy them both.