Vermouth, known in Spanish as vermut or vermú, has been out of fashion in recent years with the same kind of image that Bristol Cream has in the UK. This traditional drink has fallen so far from the national consciousness that there is no real consensus even on how to spell it, let alone where serves the best glass of the sweet, spicy aperitif.
This is all about to change, and in a big way, especially in Barcelona where the once-humble vermú has seen something of a turnaround in its fortunes. Even the Financial Times is getting in on the act, with a recent article showcasing Barcelona’s new vermouth bars and picking up on the particularly Spanish concept of vermú time, a hour or two between midday and lunch that can expand almost indefinitely depending on the quality (and quantity) of vermú consumed.
Traditional bars tend to serve it alongside cold snacks like olives, potato chips and anchovies in vinegar (especially good at one of our favourite bars, La Vermuteria del Tano. Based on white wine, various herbs and spices are added to achieve the distinctive spicy/sweet flavour. Traditional recipes include cinnamon, gentian, chamomile, juniper, sage, cardamom and coriander with a glass or two of Jerez thrown in for good measure.
The drink is usually served on ice with a slice of orange or lemon and an olive, and many bars take great pride in preparing their own recipe or vermú casero. This is well worth a try and not too hard to find in the more traditional bars and vermuterias of much of Spain – many will also sell you a bottle for the road (or to pop in your suitcase for the folks back home). You may also hear the phrase vermú del grifo- this simply means vermouth from the tap, and also tends to be a home-made version of the good stuff. Usually hitting the 13% mark, vermú can be a bit overpowering and is ideally followed by a hearty lunch (and a siesta if you are really lucky).
You can water down your enthusiasm as many bars, especially traditional tend to serve the drink with an old-fashioned siphon of soda water to dilute to taste. The international press is currently recommending Casa Mariol (near the Sagrada Familia) and the celebrated Quimet & Quimet in Paralel. We would add places like Jai-ca in Barceloneta or Cala del Vermut between el Borne and the Gothic quarter. Another great area for vermú hunting is Calle Parlament along with the nearby Carrer Blai in Poble Sec, a good bet if you are looking for a table on the terrace, even on a sunny day.
If you are interested in finding out more about Catalonia’s best vermouth bars, we recommend keeping an eye on the blog Morro fi. If you are short on time and would like a local guide, Trip4real set up tourists with local guides, and many tours focus specifically on vermouth.