Vermouth, really? I spent years in Barcelona, walking past the big “Vermut” signs outside virtually every little corner bar on Sundays, wondering why on earth they were advertising Vermouth. To me, Vermouth was a drink I associated with dusty old bottles of herbal stuff in someone’s grand parents’ cellar. And maybe a drink you’d pour a few drops of into a Martini glass, and then tip them out again before adding the vodka.
Definitely not something that would get me into a bar, much less so on a Sunday at noon.
But the bars were always full, so there had to be something behind the whole Vermouth sign craze.
So two weeks ago, coming back from a beautiful Sunday afternoon beach walk looking for a terrace on Rambla de Poblenou to have a “clara” (beer with lemonade), I couldn’t ignore the Vermouth signs again. There is this beautiful looking bar in Poblenou, Esperit de Vi, which has made itself trustworthy to me by advertising Glühwein in the winter, and they had a Vermouth sign out as well. I had to try it.
I had no idea what it would taste like or even really what it was made of, so after ordering, I had to google it. Vermouth, in case you were wondering as well, is a sort of fortified wine that’s been flavoured with herbs, spices and other aromas. One of the classic Vermouth aromas is wormwood, “Wermut” in German, which is where the drink got its name from. It’s sweetened, and can be made from any type of wine – red, white or rosé. I realised I had no idea if I was going to get a red or white Vermouth.
Considering this is Spain, I should have known it would be red! And I have no objections to that.
This is how it was served: Vermouth, on the rocks, with an olive and a slice of orange. I also received a bottle of sparkling water, “to tone it down if you like, as the taste can be quite strong”, as the bar man explained to me. And, because I needed something savoury to balance out the sweet Vermouth, I ordered some chorizo sausages and a plate of pa amb tomaquet – bread with tomato – to go with it. You can never go wrong with pa amb tomaquet.
It was good. So good, I have no idea why I spent six years living here without drinking vermouth on Sundays.
So next time you’re in Barcelona, don’t make the mistake I made and walk past all the “Vermut” signs. Come in and give it a shot!
Where to have your Vermouth
The most famous Vermuteria at the moment is Bodega 1900, a place that specialises in the tradition of Vermouth and the classic foods that go with it. It’s one of Albert Adria’s ventures and will definitely serve you some nice vermut and tapas to go with it.
However, I recommend you just walk around the neighbourhood you’re staying in and pick a bar that looks packed on a Sunday afternoon and has one of the famous “Vermut” signs out. It’ll probably be inexpensive and you’ll be surrounded by more locals. If you’re in my neighbourhood, Poblenou, come check out Esperit de Vi on Calle Joncar 3, or try one of the many terraces on Rambla de Poblenou.