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The best vermouth bars in London

Vermouth – the fortified and aromatised wine – is now the star of the show at these top London bars

By Laura Richards
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Once confined to the back of your booze cupboard, vermouth is now the star of the show at a handful of London bars. But what even is vermouth?

The fortified and aromatised wine was invented in Italy – and like many a drink, it was originally made for medicinal purposes, until its deliciousness caught on. Best enjoyed as an aperitif or as part of a cocktail, vermouth is made from a base wine that’s fortified by adding alcohol – typically brandy – before the drink is sweetened and flavour is given from botanicals and spices. Historically, the two main types of vermouth are sweet and dry – essentially, red and white. But more recent experimentation around the world (not just in Italy and France) has produced all sorts of styles of the drink.

In London, it might not be as common to order a vermouth at the bar as it is in Venice or Barcelona, say. But it’s catching on (yep, vermouth is on fire) and is best enjoyed at this host of wine bars and cocktail spots – where you’ll find it served chilled, mixed with tonic for a V&T or shaken into an unforgettable cocktail. These are your vermouthers and shakers.

The best places to drink vermouth in London

1. Mele e Pere

Restaurants Italian Soho

Vermouth rookies can try the aperitivi bar at this Soho spot for two in-house vermouths or two-for-one spritzes during happy hour. Connoisseurs, head to the basement for a library of the stuff – there are 34 from around the world, despite the restaurant’s Italian roots and Italy being the drink’s birthplace. Feeling fancy? A Mele Martini is made with truffle-infused white vermouth.

2. Vermuteria

Bars and pubs Café bars King’s Cross

If Mele e Pere is the vermouth library, Vermuteria is the museum. The King’s Cross café-bar pays homage to the ties between Italian vermouth brands and road-cycling teams, with branding, posters and photos on the walls. Also, geek out on vermouths listed by producer. Enjoy them over ice (from £4), or go for a cocktail with vermouth at its core, from negronis to spritzes.

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3. Sabor

Restaurants Tooting

Do it Barcelona-style at the ground-floor bar of Sabor, where you can pick at top tapas and savour vermouth on tap (they call it vermú here, as in Spain). The draught vermouth is a sweet red from La Rioja costing £5 a glass; served with a slice of orange and juicy green olives, it’s like a glass of Costa Brava sunshine. There’s also a selection of bottled reds and whites for more exploration.

4. Temper Covent Garden

Restaurants Mediterranean Covent Garden

The Covent Garden branch of Temper is a temple to vermouth – which goes surprisingly well with the restaurant’s other speciality, cheeseburger tacos. The range spans modern styles from global producers, including Belsazar from Germany (the word vermouth comes from the German for botanical ‘wormwood’), Regal Rogue from Australia and London’s own Sacred.

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5. The Mulwray

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Chinatown

Achingly on trend, The Mulwray is pouring all the drinks you need to know about. That includes a succinct list of vermouths. We recommend using a trip here to see why the fortified wine has become the backbone of many a famous mixed drink – the ‘bartender’s choice’ of cocktails includes a classic Vieux Carré and a Hanky Panky.

6. El Vermut

Bars and pubs Wine bars Nunhead

A bar outside of central London that is way ahead of the curve, El Vermut (another word for vermouth in Spanish) brings vinous revelry to SE15. It imports many of its bottles and all drops hail from the Iberian Peninsula. A list of ‘algo especial’ (something special) includes the first vermouth made using honey instead of sugar. See ya later, cerveza.

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7. The Drunken Oyster

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Victoria

The bar above Jason Atherton’s Italian restaurant Hai Cenato focuses on the V&T – a delicious alternative to a G&T that swaps gin out in favour of vermouth. Comparatively, it makes for a low alcohol option, and the bar adds pretty Mediterranean garnishes to dial up the delicious aromas of the drink. A menu of negronis is also at play for those who like a proper kick from their vermouth.

the best martinis in london, dukes martini
Photograph: Time Out

8. Dukes Bar

Bars and pubs St James’s

If you had to name one iconic cocktail that just wouldn’t be the same without vermouth, chances are the martini may spring to mind. And where could be better to sip on the classic mix of gin and dry vermouth than at Dukes Bar (aka martini heaven). Here, they’ll slowly stir you up a hefty martini that’s beautifully balanced and goes straight to the knees – just as it should. Vermouth never looked so good.

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9. The Resting Room

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Portobello Road

Although The Resting Room is found inside west London’s very own ‘gin hotel’, this bar doesn’t stop at gin. Vermouth is also a strong point on the drinks list – try it in one of many martinis and negronis. But our favourite way to drink it is in a Chillet Lillet, a slushy version of a V&T made with lillet blanc. It’s a trés chic party drink, really.

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