Stop Cooking with Wine. Use Vermouth.

Keep a bottle of vermouth in the fridge and you’ll never waste a bottle of wine again.

Published Sept. 27, 2022.

We love the fruitiness and acidity that wine brings to fish, shrimp, pastas, and pan sauces, and if you’re already treating yourself to a bottle, it’s easy enough to pour off the half cup or so that your recipe calls for. 

Sometimes, though, you feel like having fish in a white wine butter sauce but don’t want to commit to opening and drinking most of a new bottle of white (or maybe you’re not a wine drinker at all). If you frequently find yourself pouring past-its-prime wine down your drain, we have a solution: Stop cooking with wine and start cooking with vermouth.

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What Is Vermouth?

Vermouth, like Marsala and sherry, is wine that has been fortified with a high-proof alcohol. 

This higher alcohol content allows vermouth to be stored in the refrigerator for weeks or even months after you’ve opened the bottle, making it possible to pour off the occasional half cup at your convenience.

An added bonus? Bottles of vermouth (at least, the kind we like to use for cooking) are cheaper than the bottles of wine we typically use in the kitchen.

What Is the Difference Between Dry and Red Vermouth?

While dry vermouths are light and crisp, red vermouths are sweet with spiced and herbal notes. Red vermouths were originally made with a base of red wine, but nowadays, they are more often than not white wine–based and dyed red. 

How to Substitute Dry Vermouth for White Wine

Dry vermouth can be substituted for white wine in equal ratios. However, some vermouths are infused with somewhat intense botanicals (think spices, roots, and herbs) that can be overpowering in some applications. 

For cooking, we prefer vermouths with subtler floral and citrus notes that enhance but don’t overwhelm the food. 

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How to Substitute Red Vermouth for Red Wine

Red vermouth is sweeter than white vermouth (and considerably sweeter than red wine), so the swap can be a little more noticeable.   

However, when we prepared two dishes—pot roast braised in 1/2 cup of red wine and pan-seared steak with a red wine pan sauce—with vermouth instead of red wine, both dishes were still certainly acceptable. They were slightly sweeter, but the effect was subtle. 

If you swap in red vermouth for red wine and find the added sweetness bothersome, try toning it down with a few drops of lemon juice or red wine vinegar.

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