Drinks Atlas: Vermouth di Torino from Piedmont, Italy - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Drinks Atlas: Vermouth di Torino from Piedmont, Italy

In the northwestern Italian region of Piedmont, nestled at the base of the Alps, the capital city of Turin often garners comparisons to Paris. But for centuries the city has been its own hub for culture and innovation, from its influential Baroque architecture to the first Fiat factory. It was this emphasis on innovation—and the money to fund it—that led to the creation of the globally popular drink that bears the city’s name: Vermouth di Torino.

It wasn’t long ago that vermouth’s fortunes were down. “In the ’80s and ’90s, the love for the category fell a lot, probably because of the lower quality offered by a market pushed down by lower and lower prices,” explains Roberto Bava, CEO of Cocchi and president of the Consorzio del Vermouth di Torino. “But the renaissance of vermouth started again from Piemonte.”

Historic tax breaks for spirits makers, the establishment of the University of Spirit and Confectionery Makers in 1739, and the global import of spices (thanks to the wealth of the royal court of Savoy), made Turin fertile ground for experimentation. Utilizing the traditional wines of Piedmont, such as Moscato and Barolo, early makers added botanicals native to the Alps, like wormwood and chamomile, and newly imported spices to create the aromatized wine. By the mid-19th century, it was being widely exported, and in 1933 its main defining traits, such as minimum alcohol and sugar content, were established by Italian law. In 1991, Vermouth di Torino obtained Geographical Indication (GI) status, and by 2017 an alliance of producers, led by Bava at Cocchi, successfully pushed for increased legal protections and oversight. “[Vermouth di Torino] is the only name in the vermouth world in which the whole production, from ingredients to the process, is under control by an authority,” says Bava.

This new level of oversight aims to protect the quality and culture of a product that is once again booming, with vermouth’s fortunes having risen in step with the craft cocktail movement. “I believe we owe a lot to a new generation of bartenders that showed up 10 years ago with an incredible passion inspiring them to go deeper in their research for quality ingredients,” he says. Beyond vermouth’s incorporation in classic cocktails, more drinkers are finding appreciation the Italian way. “Historically, Italians drink wines and liquors neat, maybe with a garnish,” says Bava. “A good vermouth deserves it.”


* In an effort to raise the population and regional standing of Turin, King Carlo Emanuele issued an edict in 1583 to make the production of liqueurs and spirits exempt from taxes. The effort was successful and eventually saw the creation of the Dora Grossa district, which became a historic hub of production for many of the city’s vermouth producers and distilleries.

* Pointed to as the first commercial example of vermouth, a rosso vermouth was made by Antonio Benedetto Carpano in 1786 at his wine shop in Turin after he had studied to be an herbalist. He sent the aromatized wine to King Vittorio Amedeo III at the royal palace across the street, where his product reportedly swiftly gained favor among the royal court


Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth From the producer that started it all back in 1786, Carpano Antica Formula stands out for its rich notes of vanilla balanced by flavors of citrus and spice on a white wine base from Italian grape varieties from the Romagna, Puglia, and Sicily regions. $16.49/375ml, totalwine.com

Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino Released in 2011 to celebrate the company’s 120th anniversary, Cocchi Storico is made using the original 1891 recipe of Giulio Cocchi, including estate Moscato as the wine base and botanicals like artemisia, rhubarb, and cinchona bark. $18.99/750ml, astorwines.com

Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato Vermouth Made with a single-varietal base of Piedmont’s Moscato d’Asti, this lighter expression is driven by herbal and floral notes of heather and chamomile, while Chinese rhubarb and three types of local artemisia balance a honeyed sweetness. $24.96/750ml, astorwines.com

Cinzano 1757 Vermouth di Torino Rosso Referencing the year that Cinzano debuted, the 1757 Vermouth di Torino Rosso is a bold expression—with sweet flavors of fig and vanilla balanced by the bittersweet notes of licorice and wormwood—making it well suited to a cocktail like the Negroni. $23.99/1L, warehousewinesandspirits.com

Mulassano Vermouth di Torino Rosso Produced by the historic Bordiga Distillery, Mulassano Vermouth Rosso was once poured exclusively for guests of the Caffè Mulassano di Torino, but is now available stateside. With a Moscato wine base, the vermouth is sweet and herbaceous with bright notes of citrus and spice. $29.50/750ml, bittersandbottles.com

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