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A green bottle of Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth sitting on a small table in front of a window.

Dry Vermouth Instead of Wine

Kristy Dodson
Kristy Dodson


Wine has always been a game-changer for recipes in my kitchen. However, I’ve recently discovered dry vermouth and it has given wine some competition in my kitchen. Using it instead of wine was a casual accident but one I don’t regret trying.

Beef pot roast in a deep pan with carrots and rosemary
Use vermouth in a pot roast if you do not have red wine.

Missing the Key Ingredient

I feel confident that we have all been in this situation. You have a craving for one of your favorite meals and find you have everything you need except that one unique ingredient. The one that doesn’t always get purchased, much less replenished. For me, this ingredient was dry vermouth.

A Favorite Calls For Dry Vermouth

I wanted an authentic Cuban dish, Picadillo, that I have made numerous times but often skipped the dry vermouth. That night I wanted it done right with no substitutions so my wonderful husband in typical fashion took off to the grocery store looking for something he knew very little about. When this happens his last words as he walks out are “keep your phone close” and I always do (well, mostly). This became a trip to the store that has proven beneficial many times over. Dry vermouth was discovered and is now on my “replenish when out” list.

green and white bowl with Picadillo Cuban Style dinner

Picadillo, Cuban Style, is one of our favorite “one-bowl” dinners. There are many variations on this dish, but the dry vermouth makes it complete.

When a Substitute Makes You Tense

As a former teacher, the mention of the word substitute makes me tense (some of you understand, I am sure). But, the idea of continuing to open a bottle of wine just for a recipe also gives me unwelcome feelings. Since I am not much of a wine drinker, I feel wasteful when I spend money on quality wine and it loses its pizzazz after opening it. So…finding a substitution that has other benefits feels good while still resulting in delicious meals.

What Is Dry Vermouth?

If you are like me, you have heard of vermouth but have never been really sure how to categorize it in your mind. I assumed it was a liquor that was only used for making Martinis or Manhattans but then realized I could buy it at the local grocery store so that didn’t add up. While it is used for making cocktails, vermouth is actually a fortified wine. Yep, it is a wine that has been fortified with distilled liquor. Dry vermouth can be used in place of wine in just about all recipes and I am finding it often performs even better.

What We Need to Know

  • There are 2 types of vermouth: dry or sweet
  • Dry vermouth is floral and fruity with herbal notes. This vermouth is usually clear with a pale yellow tint. Pairs well with savory dishes which makes it my favorite.
  • Sweet vermouth has a full body flavor with notes of vanilla, caramel, and dark fruits. It is coppery in color and pairs best with a sweet dish.
  • It is often less expensive than buying drinking wines.
  • Offers a longer shelf life than wine.
  • Best refrigerated after opening to keep it from souring. Like wine, it does oxidize.
  • Vermouth is not distilled so it is not considered a liquor.
  • Two popular brands are Doli and Martini & Rossi (this one is easiest to find near me)

My new “must-have” pantry item.

Don’t Give Up The Flavor

I’ve always loved the depth and flavor that wine gives even ordinary meals and have no plans of giving up the approach. Since discovering I can use dry vermouth instead of wine, I have successfully made many of our family favorites. Outside of adding it to recipes, you can use it to deglaze a pan or toss a few tablespoons on cooked potatoes to brighten up the meal.

Favorites With Vermouth Instead of Wine

Pad Thai in a wooden bowl with lime on the side and chop sticks across the top.
Pad Thai with shrimp or chicken-substitute vermouth for the rice wine
Wine-braised chicken breasts in a skillet with red grapes
Wine-Braised Chicken with roasted grapes using dry vermouth
Pans-seared salmon with vermouth and a vegetables
Pan-sear salmon with dry vermouth
Beef pot roast in a deep pan with carrots and rosemary
Use vermouth in a pot roast if you do not have red wine.
One serving of Chicken ala King in an orange and white bowl.
Chicken a la King comes to life when I poach the chicken in vermouth.

Freedom In Substitutions

The more time I spend in the kitchen, the more I realize that there are no solid, fast rules. I used to be such a rule/recipe follower but I am finding a lot of freedom in using what is in the pantry, trying this instead of that, and simply enjoying the process. Cooking is part of daily life and finding what you love to eat and making it your way is what it is all about. Do you have a favorite meal that calls for wine to brighten the dish? Go ahead and share in the comments…let’s stay curious together and eat some really good food; maybe even by using vermouth instead of wine!

A knife, fork and spoon for dining.


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