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Vermouth vs. Wine

I've seen the discussion string talking about which wines to use for cooking. But, I have more questions pertaining to Vermouth vs. Wine in cooking.

I don't usually keep wine in the house (because it never lasts and especially not white). I want something that I could substitute for white wine in cooking. Is the Vermouth the right replacement? Will it keep better once it's opened? How should I store it after opening? How long can I keep it after opening? AND what is the major difference in cooking with Vermouth vs. wine?

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  1. Vermouth is a dry white wine enhanced with herbs. I prefer French vermouth, Noilly Pratt is what I buy. It will last a very long time if you keep it tightly closed and in a cool dark cupboard.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      Thanks! That helps a lot. I knew I could count on a fell chowhound to help me out!

      1. re: Candy

        Agreed on the Noilly Prat. Its flavor is not diminished by cooking with it. I am not a martini guy so vermouth will last a lot longer in my house than any bottle of white wine possibly would. Keep it stored out of sunlight or in the fridge. Julia Child championed vermouth in many, many of her recipes.

        I have been tempted to buy a pack of sauvignon blanc in mini-bottles to have handy for cooking but have not done so yet.

        1. re: CDouglas

          Are you aware that they are changing the Noilly Prat formula to a sweeter product?!? I just read about it in the Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12315...

          Any suggestions for a different brand? I recall Cooks Illustrated recommending a good inexpensive brand a couple years ago, I want to say it was Gallo but not sure...

          1. re: mlle noëlle

            THANK YOU for explaining this mystery: I have always used Noilly Prat for cooking. But the last time I bought it, the bottle had changed--I didn't think anything of it at time. When I used it for the first time (in onion soup) it had sort of an odd, sweet aroma. So I tasted some and found it to be very sweet (though, I must admit, tasty--I felt compelled to have a little glass on the rocks with lemon). Strange, I thought, especially since it was labelled "original dry." I looked around at their web site, assuming this was a new product or something, but concluded that the packaging had just changed and that it had ALWAYS been that sweet but I was just not very observant. Good to hear that my powers of observation have not failed. My hope is that this will prove to be a marketing blunder along the lines of New Coke and that they will bring back the drier version in short order.

            1. re: zamorski

              I thought I saw something about NP people seeing the error of their ways and have already gone back to the original. The bottle I have on hand right now is the original, no change to the label or taste. I guess I will know for sure the next time I purchase.

              1. re: Candy

                That's too bad about the NP changing. You could also try dry Marsala or sherry. I use them in lieu of wine (IF the recipe isn't picky - of course some recipes really require the right wine). They have shelf life as vermouth.

                1. re: Mawrter

                  Sherry and marsala are good for cooking but they add their own nutty flavour, so I would not consider them interchangable with white wine in most recipes.

                  1. re: zamorski

                    Neither do I. That's why I said certain recipes really require the right wine.

            2. re: mlle noëlle

              CI recommends Gallo and it works fine. I may have liked NP because it was the vermouth I always used for cooking. A sweeter version would not be the direction I would want to go in the dishes I use it for.

              Vya may be an alternative to old NP but it looks to be twice as expensive. It may be time to research boxed wines.

            3. re: CDouglas

              I, like you, seldom have an opened bottle of white, that sees dusk, the next day.

              However, my Noilly Prat (used primarily for guests' martinis), does last.

              Still, I normally have a bottle of white handy (usually being poured, as we cook), so do not reach for the Vermouth that often.


            4. re: Candy

              But I found out today there's dry and sweet types of vermouth so now what?...I'm thinking dry would be better for an entree ( lobster) but the saleslady said it was more complicated than that

            5. They taste different, but not wildly so. As candy has said, vermouth has herbal flavors added.

              It also is fortified by adding extra alcohol which helps it to be shelf stable over longer periods.

              It usually a good sub for white wine in cooking.

              Remember though, that you can freeze leftover wine for later use (cooking not drinking). You can also buy wine in small individual bottles and in boxes and other sealed containers.

              1. I had no idea you could freeze wine. As for the small individual bottles of wine, are they good enough quality to cook with? I've read (someplace called chowhound...you guys know the place?) that you shouldn't cook with anything you're not going to drink. I've tried some of those box white wines, I have to tell ya, they were a waste of good calories. I must have tried the worst ones of the bunch!

                3 Replies
                1. re: calla0413

                  The quality of wines available in alternate sizes has improved tremendously in recent years. There are good Australian and New Zealand white out there that make small bottles, like Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc.

                  1. re: calla0413

                    Yes, you most certainly should not cook with anything not good enough to drink. However, once drinkable wine has been open a few days and starts to taste a little duller, you can make ice cubes from the leftover wine, which work great in cooking. It sounds very Nigella or Rachel Ray-esque, but I like it nonetheless.

                    Btw, do stores sell wine a lot of wine in smaller quantities than 375 ml? Unless you're having a red wine fix at an airport/museum cafe or Sbarro-esque fast food chain, I fail to see the point of such containers (though I admit those stylish little bottles of Piper Heidsieck are very cute).

                    1. re: calla0413

                      Stone Cellars by Beringer makes wine in 187ml (roughly 6oz.) bottles. In the attached article from 2005 the 187ml bottles had sales of $68 million for the year. Someone is buying and liking them.

                    2. True, you should only cook with drinkable wine, but there's no reason to spend $$ on wine you are going to cook with -- particularly WHITE wine. I can't remember brand names off the top of my head, but more and more are bottling in single size servings, and I recall seeing a decent brand in the little bottle recently.

                      RE: boxed wines, many good restaurants use boxed wines to cook with, actually, since they use so much of it and keeps so well. I have no personaly experience with boxed wines but some of my chowish chef friends and excellent home cooks swear by it.

                      I usually have a big bottle of pretty inexpensive dry, unoaked white in the fridge that I both cook with and drink because I am much fussier about red wine and don't want to cook with better white.

                      Wine freezes but most of the time not solidly. I portion it and ziplock it tight. Thaw it completely. Works fine for cooking.

                      1. vermouth will basically keep forever, and will offer you consistency. something like a nz sauvignon blanc has so much acidity it will be like adding another lemon to the recipe.

                        calla, i have to agree, i've never tried wine out of a bag or a box that i wanted another sip of, never mind to cook with or buy again. ack.

                        1. I actually love vermouth in cooking. Esp in gravy, YUM. Some people don't like the flavor, but I love the herby-ness.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: prunefeet

                            My dressing for turkey and the like would be dull without the vermouth. It makes all of the difference.

                            1. re: prunefeet

                              Me, too. It's also wonderful in cream sauces. Since it's stronger than wine, you should probably start by adding a smaller amount (half, perhaps) and then add more to taste.

                            2. These are all great tips! I guess I need to learn a thing or two about cooking with wine.

                              I've seen vermouth and wine for ingredients for dishes like shrimp scampi and roast beef. So, I want something that'll keep for those other dishes but, I don't have to use it right way. I have my answer now. I'll try vermouth first. If the herby-ness is too much I'll try the white wine.

                              Herby-ness...LOL....I love the words we come up with to describe food/flavors/tastes! I once had someone write that they found a curry dish to be "nice and sturdy". Not exactly the words I've would have chosen but, I certainly understood what they were talking about.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: calla0413

                                I have a friend who describes some dishes as being "too dense" . I've never understood what she means. She has never explained it well enough to me to get it. Oysters with Mingonette sauce dense?

                                1. re: calla0413

                                  there is an actual word: "herbaceousness". lol.

                                2. update: this month's issue of saveur magazine has noilly-pratt vermouth as one of its "top 100". julia child used it, and they provide a lovely classic french recipe for sole cooked in vermouth!

                                  1. Yes, NP vermouth (and *only* NP; no other vermouths need apply) is a basic cooking staple. I only use another white wine when the recipe is very specific (ie, riesling for coq au riesling), or if I am finishing off an unfinished bottle.

                                    1. I have to say that is far as cooking goes, boxed wines have come a long way since Franzia. They also stay better than unused bottles with added air each time you use them. I tried the smaller bottles and I haven't found any that aren't crap compared to some of the better boxes. Try Little Black Box.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Daniella Times Three

                                        I just did a google search for noilly-pratt vermouth and found there is both a sweet and a dry. I am assuming that the dry is the better one for cooking, no?

                                      2. Vermouth, like all wines has a shelf life, particularly if opened. 3-4 months and the flavors will be diminished. Vermouth is great to cook with - however it has a higher alcohol content than most wines, and may flame up. Just about any recipe asking for white wine will stand up to vermouth as a substitute.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: mrjuggs

                                          Dry Vermouth is derived from White Wine and is dryer in taste. Dry Vermouth is used in Martinis. Sweet Vermouth is derived from Red Wine and is sweeter. Sweet Vermouth is the foundation for a Manhattan and a Negroni....
                                          You can substitute dry vermouth for recipes calling for White wine, Sweet for Red wine. Just be cautious, i wouldn't use Vermouth as a substitute for something calling for a "bottle of red wine". The herbs used and flavoring would be overpowering. But if your deglazing a pan for a sauce, go for it, again be aware of the potential for flare ups as its higher in alcohol than wine. I'd say any recipe asking for 1/2 cup or less of red or white wine could stand up to a vermouth substitution.

                                          1. re: mrjuggs

                                            I've seen two kinds of white vermouth (I don't know how common it is) from Dolin.

                                            "Vermouth Blanc" which is quite sweet, and "Vermouth Dry" which is what I am used to drink.

                                            I bought the "sweet" one by mistake (not really, I just don't look at labels), and it was not at all what I wanted to buy.


                                        2. Dolin Dry Vermouth is the only thing left. What a shame. I remember when Boissiere was sold and moved from Chambery to Italy. and became virtually a bottle of water.

                                          Vermouth doesn't last forever, but its shelf life is much longer than regular white wine (or wine of any sort). However, since I use it so much in cooking, it doesn't last long enough to go bad.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: ChefJune

                                            I love Dolin, and actually prefer it over Noily Pratt. I make a lot of cocktails so I always have sweet and dry vermouth on hand. Like others have said, they will NOT keep forever, but they will keep for a long time, and the flavor difference is less sour vinegar over time and more of just a sort of more muted version of the same vermouth when fresh. On that point, I can actually speak from direct experience as I recently did a taste test of a fresh bottle of Dolin and one that was eight months old but had been faithfully stored in a fridge and vacuum sealed between uses.

                                            The biggest mistake people make with vermouth is keeping it out once it's been opened, usually in a closet with other liquor. DO NOT do that. Refrigerating it makes a world of difference, and using a vacu-vin also helps a lot to preserve it as well IMO.