June 14, 2007 By: erik Category: Colindres, Partying, Photos, Spain 1,060 views

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VermouthIn my Spanish class in England, one of the Spanish teaching assistants told me that, in Spain, before lunch (the big meal of the day), the Spaniards often go out and have a vermouth, a so-called “aperitif”.

At the time that I was taught this, I had been visiting Spain and going out with Spaniards for pre-meal drinks for several years, and I had never seen anyone order a vermouth. To me, a vermouth was something that was added to a martini, the favorite cocktail of my father, grandfather, and James Bond. Not only that, it was the most disgusting part. As Winston Churchill is mythologically reported to have said, “To get the proper amount of vermouth in a dry martini, one should add ice to the glass, glance at the bottle of vermouth from across the room, and then add the gin.” My father takes several years to make it through a bottle of vermouth in his daily martini ritual. I’m sure he will elaborate in the comments.

I’m much more of a beer and wine person myself, as are all of Marga’s family, apparently, since I was so ignorant to this tradition. But it turns out that a significant percentage of Spaniards really do order vermouth when out in the pre-meal drinking ritual (in which I participate at every opportunity). The vermouth that they drink is not the nasty “dry vermouth”, but a sweeter spiced wine. As if to try and complicate things, they often call it by the brand, Martini. A typical Spaniard has no idea what the 007 cocktail is. If you say “martini”, they will assume that you mean this sweet vermouth that they drink here. Like wine, there is the option of red or white. Unlike wine, they call the red vermouth “vermíº rojo”, not “tinto”.

Recently, I’ve taken quite a liking to the red vermouth, and often order it in place of wine during our pre-meal, midday excursions. It’s particularly nice in the summer, because it’s iced. I took the following picture last Sunday at the same table at the same bar as the Blond and Brunette shot. Like before, Marga was so engrossed in her ultraviolet absorption, that I was left to play artistically with my camera. The sharp angle of the buildings makes it look like I used some fancy lens, but I’m not that sophisticated.


Plus, they often give you olives.

  • I love this photo. Will definitely be having one of these when I am over for the wedding 🙂

  • Paul

    Here we have two types of Vermouth, sweet and dry. Rumor has it that some people drink the sweet vermouth like wine. I’ve not witnessed that. Most grocery stores carry both types of vermouth. I’ve only bought the dry, and never tasted it without gin until this morning. Hmmm. Interesting. Must be an acquired taste. Gallo dry vermouth is the most common, at about $6 a bottle. Your Grandfather taught me 20 years ago that only Martini&Rossi Extra Dry from Italy ($8) was worthy. In this town that is found only at Harris-Teeter. Only a little gets poured from my bottle every day at 5:00, but the days follow each other like pre-schoolers walking to the park, and I probably go through about three bottles each year.

  • Here in Pamplona having a vermouth before lunch is a big tradition, but the younger generation usually sticks to beer and such. Needless to say, I’ll stick to beer (wouldn’t want to be part of the staunch older generation just yet -just kidding). Anyway, the important thing is to participate, and I can see you’re doing just that. 🙂

  • We don’t seem to see eye-to-eye on the importance of vermouth’s role in the martini, but I also like the stuff as an aperitif the way you describe. As an aspiring-pretentious student in Italy, I learned quickly the value of Martini Bianco with ice and lemon, and still enjoy it occasionally. I am pretty sure that sweet white vermouth, unlike the rojo pictured, is unavailable in the U.S. — it used to be, anyway.

    I once tried to order a martini in a tourist hotel in Slovenia, and the bartender attempted to serve me a glass of dry vermouth. I explained what I wanted, actually having to teach him how to mix a martini, and he never stopped looking at me like I was an escapee from a mental hospital for the dangerously violent.

  • Yeah… like sgazzetti I had requests that confused bartenders when traveling through Europe with the company that Erik and I use to work with.

    One night I tried to order a round of shots for everyone sitting at a bar in Munich. I couldn’t quite get what I was talking about across to the bartender so I finally jumped behind the bar (after asking permission of course) and proceeded to make a round of shots. The crowd loved it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I returned to the bar one day to find “a round of shots” a continued tradition. 🙂

  • Wow! Great comments, everybody. I seem to have found a subject that we all enjoy.

  • I’d never heard the term “hacer el vermut” until I got to Catalonia.  In Andalusí­a, as far as I know, people just talk about “echando un cafelito” or a “cervesita”.  In La Mancha the term of art is “hacer la vaca”.  Same concept, different phrase.

    What was the deal with these directors?  Luis Bunuel claimed that the perfect dry martini was produced by allowing a ray of light to traverse the bottle of vermouth before illuminating the glass of gin.  As he put it, “…it was said that the making of a dry martini should resemble the Immaculate Conception, for, as Saint Thomas Aquinas once noted, the generative power of the Holy Ghost pierced the Virgin\’s hymen ‘like a ray of sunlight through a window-leaving it unbroken.'”  (

    Just to keep things clear, this post of yours was from an era prior to our “no comments without disagreement” arrangement.  As such, I’m allowing myself the freedom to chip in my $0.014 (at today’s exchange rate) without the need for discord.

    • Talk of the Mary’s hymen is always welcome on my blog.

      • Yep, that’ll bring a whole new demographic group of Google search results.