Vermouth was introduced to the world in Turin, Italy, in the 1750s, but did you know it was used as a medication first? It wasn’t until the late 1800s that vermouth became popular the way it is today.
What is Vermouth?
Vermouth is an aromatized and fortified wine made from a base of either neutral-tasting wine grapes or unfermented wine. Vermouth is generally either sweet or dry.
Several countries around the world make vermouth using their proprietary recipes. Each manufacturer adds more alcohol and dry ingredients, including aromatic herbs, tree barks, and roots. Depending on the style of vermouth, it may get sweetened with additional cane sugars or caramelized sugars.
In the 19th century, Italian bartenders served vermouth as an apéritif to patrons of all-night cafes. It soon became one of the main ingredients in many cocktails, including martinis, Manhattans, Rob Roys, and Negroni.
But what makes a good vermouth substitute if you don’t have any?
Top 5 Dry Vermouth Substitutes
Vermouth isn’t just an ingredient in some classic cocktails and favorite drinks. Many recipes call for dry vermouth because it balances sweetness and tartness for a very pleasing taste. Another benefit of dry vermouth is that it’s storable in the fridge for months after opening a bottle.
But dry vermouth isn’t a staple in everyone’s cupboard or cabinet. If you’re looking to make a cocktail or a special meal, here’s what to use as a substitute for vermouth if you don’t have any.
While dry vermouth is sometimes an ingredient in recipes, don’t use sweet vermouth as a dry vermouth substitute because the taste profiles are too different. The good news is, if you need a dry vermouth substitute in cooking, there are more common ingredients that you probably have on hand to mimic the taste of dry vermouth in your cooking.
1. White Wine as a Dry Vermouth Substitute
White wine gets recommended as a dry vermouth substitute for apparent reasons—vermouth comes from a white wine base. But there are many categories of wine and a dry white like sauvignon blanc is the best replacement for dry vermouth, while a dry white like chardonnay is too light with fruity notes.
Use Case for Dry White Wine as a Dry Vermouth Substitute
Looking at recipes calling for dry vermouth, we found a risotto dish is an excellent example of dry white sauvignon blanc working well in place of dry vermouth.
Risotto is a favorite dish in Italy, and there are many famous and beloved versions of risotto recipes worldwide. You may think that risotto is too fancy and complicated to make at home but think of it this way—risotto is basically the creamy rice version of mac and cheese!
Dry vermouth is often included in risotto recipes to enhance the creamy flavor, but some cooks prefer to use a dry sauvignon blanc as a dry vermouth substitute. If you’re concerned about the alcohol content, let your dish simmer or bake for longer to let the alcohol burn off.
2. Lemon Juice as a Vermouth Substitute In Cooking
Because it’s fortified, dry vermouth is quite thick. But it’s also very acidic, which is why lemon juice works as a dry vermouth substitute. Lemon juice works reasonably well as a substitute for vermouth in sauces for pasta or meats.
As far as a citrus substitute for dry vermouth, lemon juice is the preferred option. Lime juice or other citrus juices are too strong and flavorful. Lemon juice is overpowering too if you use too much, so if a recipe calls for dry vermouth and you’re replacing it with lemon juice, only use half as much lemon juice as a dry vermouth substitute.
3. Vinegar as a Vermouth Substitute In Cooking
Vinegar is equally acidic to lemon juice, so it mimics the acidity of dry vermouth well and makes a good substitute for vermouth. But as you’re probably well aware, there are many varieties of vinegar used in cooking or as a base in salad dressings.
The closest vermouth substitute in cooking vinegar is white wine vinegar. But in general, more people have balsamic or red-wine vinegar in their pantries, and those varieties make a decent dry vermouth substitute too.
Use Case for Vinegar as a Dry Vermouth Substitute
When you decide to use vinegar as a substitute for vermouth in cooking, always pre-taste the vinegar to determine the intensity of its flavor.
For instance, a dish like a hunter chicken features a hearty sauce, chopped vegetables like onions and peppers, and aromatic spices for a strong flavor. So a rich balsamic vinegar works as a dry vermouth substitute.
But a dish like seafood linguine is often lighter in its ingredients, spices, and oils. If you’re making a meal like clam linguine that calls for dry vermouth, switch it out with a less intense, white wine vinegar.
4. Poultry Broths as a Vermouth Substitute In Cooking
Whether you freeze the broths from boiling chickens or keep turkey stock from holiday dinners and freeze it for later use, the broth from chicken or turkey is workable as a dry vermouth substitute in the right kind of recipes.
Use Case for Poultry Broth as a Dry Vermouth Substitute
Roast chicken is a delicious and satisfying meal, and many recipes for this dish call for dry vermouth.
One such recipe is Roast Chicken with Lemon, Oregano, and Vermouth. Because lemons are a feature ingredient in this roast chicken dish, it’s possible to switch out chicken or turkey broth as a dry vermouth substitute. A white meat broth also works in this roasted chicken dish because lemon and oregano provide the mouthwatering acidity of dry vermouth.
5. Beef and Vegetable Broth as a Vermouth Substitute In Cooking
No broth will have a distinct strength and taste profile of dry vermouth, but red meat broth complements many recipes, and for a more robust flavor that’s closer to actual dry vermouth, beef and vegetable broth works well.
Making beef broth isn’t as convenient as simply cooling down and saving poultry stock after boiling a chicken. Beef broth is a bit of a process, but it’s great to have on hand for future use, including a vermouth substitute in cooking.
The best beef broth recipes generally include roasting soup bones, assorted vegetables, and spices in the oven for a certain amount of time. After the roasting part of the beef broth recipe is completed, the ingredients get transferred from the actual oven to a dutch oven on the stovetop. The ingredients are allowed to simmer for several hours to maximize the flavor.
You can refrigerate beef broth to use within a few days or freeze it for up to six months. In specific recipes, it makes an ideal dry vermouth substitute.
Use Case for Beef Broth as a Dry Vermouth Substitute
One ideal recipe to replace beef broth for dry vermouth is french onion soup. The beauty of this is, a solid, flavorful beef broth is already a key ingredient in many of the best french onion soup recipes, so it’s not a stretch to play with the quantity of beef broth in your french onion recipe as a dry vermouth substitute.
Sweeter Vermouth Substitute In Cooking
Some side dishes call for a sweeter taste profile, with dry vermouth as the main ingredient to pull out the richness in the flavor.
While we don’t recommend using very sweet ingredients as a general substitute for vermouth, some sweeter substitutes can work if you are careful with the amounts.
A less sugary substitute for vermouth is white grape juice with no added sweeteners, and it can work as a dry vermouth substitute in a light oiled sauce for lemony chicken, for instance.
Another far sweeter substitute for vermouth is maple syrup. Some holiday side dishes like candied carrots (or carrots vermouth) feature dry vermouth as the main ingredient, and maple syrup works in this dish as a dry vermouth substitute. Look for methods online of reducing the thickness of the maple syrup for usage as an ingredient in a side dish.
Is Sweet Vermouth Ever Used in Cooking?
While sweet vermouth doesn’t generally get used much in recipes for main meals or side dishes, some dessert dishes call for sweet vermouth, and they are absolutely delicious. One such delectable dessert is poached pears served with a whipped cream topping!
Cooking with dry vermouth or making a special dessert with sweet vermouth doesn’t have to be a complicated thing. But the fact is, vermouth isn’t a necessary ingredient even when it says “Vermouth” in a recipe title!
One thing is for sure, given the top 5 substitutes we’ve listed in this article, you will be able to find a vermouth substitute in your pantry or at the local grocers.
Whatever you do, whether it’s cooking with dry vermouth or using lemon juice, sauvignon blanc, or a thawed broth, enjoy your time cooking in the kitchen and the experience afterward of a special meal with family or friends.