ver-MOOTH] White wine that has been fortified and flavored with various herbs and spices. The name "vermouth" comes from the German wermut ("wormwood") which, before it was declared poisonous, was once the principal flavoring ingredient.
Though the product is mostly an Italian/French undertaking, the word comes to us from the German Vermutwein, meaning wormwood wine. While wormwood is indeed one of the many botanicals that goes into its manufacture, vermouth has escaped the stigma that has followed absinthe. Actually, vermouth is a highly sophisticated product of a great many botanical flavorings such as cloves, nutmeg, seeds, marjoram, angelica root, gentian, nutmeg, linden, elder flower, iris root, citrus peels, and over a hundred others. The French (dry)make it by selecting and combining their botanicals, then pouring mixture of fortified wine and mistelles over them. The brew is allowed to steep for a few weeks; the wine is then drawn off and the process repeated until all the flavor has been extracted from the botanicals. A selection of these flavored wines are blended together and then mixed with unflavored wines, Brandy is added to raise the alcohol level, and the vermouth is chilled almost to the freezing point to eliminate any sediment. The Italian (sweet) vermouth is red, richer in flavor and more syrupy.
Vermouth is a fortified wine flavored with aromatic herbs and spices ("aromatized" in the trade) in recipes that are closely-guarded trade secrets. The inventor of vermouth, Antonio Benedetto Carpano from Turin, Italy, chose this name in 1786 because he was inspired by a German wine fortified with wormwood, a herb most famously used in distilling absinthe. The modern German word Wermut (Wermuth in the spelling of Carpano's time) means both wormwood and vermouth.