Many view vermouth as a binary between dry and sweet, yet an in-between exists where the balance of flavors defies common categorization: blanc vermouth (French) or bianco (Italian). Likely because it doesn’t have an iconic classic cocktail like a Manhattan or Martini, blanc is often overlooked, as are the myriad of blanc vermouth cocktail recipes.
All vermouths are made with wine, fortified with neutral alcohol, and infused with aromatics. Each brand has a propriety blend of botanicals. The French blanc version is lightly sweet with a hint of bitterness, whereas the Italian bianco has stronger vanilla notes, making it taste sweeter. However, as it is a lesser known and more obscure spirit, blanc and bianco are often used interchangeably.
The most common type of blanc vermouth is the original, the Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry. Other favorite blanc or bianco vermouths include Cocchi Americano, Contratto, and Bordiga. While a bit of a misnomer, Lillet blanc is not a vermouth as it lacks wormwood, an essential ingredient in vermouths. It is considered a French wine-based apéritif, however, it can be used as a substitute for vermouth in a pinch.
Blanc/bianco vermouth should be not only a welcome addition to cocktails but it makes a delightful aperitivo as well. Top with some soda water or serve on the rocks for a delightfully balanced sipper, experiment by substituting blanc for dry vermouth in a Martini or for sweet vermouth in a Manhattan, or try one of the tried-and-true recipes below.
1. Manhattan Blanco
With a smoky, smooth taste and a velvety finish, the Manhattan Blanco is a spirit-forward vermouth cocktail. It was created by Lily Basinet when she wanted an agave-based cocktail that wasn’t as citrus-forward as a margarita, had smoky mezcal, and the smoothness of her usual bourbon Manhattan. Made with tequila, mezcal, orange liqueur, and blanc vermouth, it’s become a favorite of anyone who’s tried it.
When the Flatiron Lounge in New York created its namesake Martini, it quickly became a modern classic. The Flatiron Martini is made with equal parts vodka and bianco vermouth that begins with a rinse of orange liqueur.
A riff on the original “mistaken” Negroni, the White Negroni Sbgliato is a fairer twist on its crimson cousin. With herbal Suze, sweet bianco vermouth, and sparkling wine, it’s a fresh and herbaceous aperitivo.
A classic riff on a Martini, this blanc vermouth cocktail begins with an absinthe rinse, combined with gin, blanc vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and orange bitters for a complex boozy sipper that’s stood the test of time over 120 years.
Light, floral, and elegant, the Suzie Americano makes a delightful aperitivo. The low-alcohol riff on the classic ruby red Americano is made with gentian liqueur, blanc vermouth, and topped off with club soda.
A mellower riff on the Old Pal, swapping dry vermouth for blanc makes for a lighter take on this spirit-forward cocktail. Mix boozy rye whiskey, vermouth, and bitter Campari. Serve Negroni-style with one large ice cube.
Named for its supposed ability to cure a hangover, the Tequila Corpse Reviver is a riff on the original Corpse Reviver. Made with blanco tequila, blanc vermouth, orange liqueur, absinthe, lime juice, and orange juice, it’s complex and zesty without being overly boozy.
The Drunk Uncle is a rich, smoky, bittersweet drink, a modern take on the classic Negroni. Mix an Islay Scotch, Cynar amaro, and bianco vermouth. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit for this spirit-forward vermouth cocktail.
This modern variation on the classic Martini is a welcome alternative for tequila lovers. The earthy blanco tequila, floral blanc vermouth, orange bitters, and zesty lemon juice take this Martini riff in a bright new direction.
A refreshing take on a mezcal aperitivo, the Fumata Bianca is made with gentian liqueur such as Suze, bianco vermouth, mezcal, and club soda. It’s intriguing without being spirit-forward or citrusy-sweet.
This Cuban take on a vermouth cocktail mixes white rum, orange Curaçao, blanc vermouth, and grenadine. While it’s never had the stronghold of other Cuban classics like the Mojito or Daiquiri, it’s one of the few classic cocktails made with blanc vermouth.