A Drinking Guide to Oregon Vermouth for Your Home Bar

A new wave of local vermouth spices up the liquor cabinet.

By Rachel Ritchie April 27, 2015 Published in the May 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth, tonic, orange twist.

Wine can capture only so much of a place. But throw in roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, and spices, and you have a heady terroir—the true flavor of a landscape, stored in a bottle. That’s the big idea behind an emerging cluster of Oregonians tackling vermouth, the age-old European aperitif made of wine fortified with brandy and infused with botanicals. 

“We took what we knew about the origins of vermouth, and lifted it from Italy to Oregon,” says Neil Kopplin, one of the founders of Imbue Cellars. “Our goal was to make something delicious, fresh, and well-balanced enough that everyone would be able to appreciate it.” Indeed, most casual American drinkers think of vermouth as that mysterious dusty bottle that does unknown things to a martini or a manhattan. But like the rest of Oregon’s vermouth pioneers, Imbue’s two offerings—the flagship Bittersweet Vermouth and the more assertively bitter, amaro-inspired Petal & Thorn—are designed to be just as enjoyable on the rocks as they are mixed in a fancy cocktail. Here, we offer a cocktail to get you started, plus a guide to Oregon’s current wave of craft vermouths.

Oregon Vermouth: A Drinking Guide

Ransom Dry Vermouth 
$20 for 500 mL, 18.4% ABV

With a base of pinot noir blanc, winemaker-distiller Tad Seestedt’s super-dry, summery potion boasts notes of bitter apple and heady spices.

Interrobang Sweet Vermouth
$18 for 375 mL, 17.5% ABV

Inspired by an ancient German recipe, Karl Weichold’s sweet vermouth, fortified with Clear Creek Brandy, oozes fruity hits of woodsy blackberry, apricot, and cherry.

Cana’s Feast Chinato d’Erbetti
$45 for 750 mL, 17.4% ABV

Winemaker Patrick Taylor’s Barolo-style Chinato drinks like a deeply spicy Italian wine, with earthy notes of raisins, black pepper, and sour cherry.

Hammer & Tongs Sac’Résine 
$35 for 750 mL, 17.5% ABV

Meaning “sacred resins,” Taylor’s side label of vermouths uses a formula that splits the difference between dry white and sweet red for a head-spinningly herbal and citrusy sip. 

Make It!

The Gateway Cocktail: Vermouth & Tonic

“It’s like a light gin and tonic, with a tea-like quality,” says Kopplin.
“All of the citrus rises to the top, with a real richness on the finish.”

2 oz Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth
2 oz tonic
Orange twist
Combine all ingredients over ice and serve. 


2 oz Imbue Petal & Thorn
2 oz tonic
Squeeze of lime juice
Combine all ingredients over ice and serve.

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