Q + A: The International Society for the Preservation and Enjoyment of Vermut
Marti Kilpatrick is a freelance journalist and blogger who has spent the last three years living and working in San Sebastian, Spain. She writes most frequently about food, travel, and Spain, and spends her free time selling ice cream sandwiches, cookies, and donuts via her bakery bicycle called The Cookie, and promoting the culture of vermut through the International Society for the Preservation and Enjoyment of Vermut with co-founder and friend Maite Roso. Read more about vermut and the Society below, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up with new projects and exciting news!
For the uninitiated, how would you describe vermut as opposed to vermouth?
Vermut is Spanish (and Italian) for vermouth. So it's the same! Although the concept and reputation of vermouth is very different here in Europe. Here it is seen as a pre-meal drink, an aperitif, to be enjoyed on its own over ice. In the States, vermouth has mostly been relegated to dusty liquor shelves and frowned upon by martini drinkers everywhere. At it's most basic, vermouth is a fortified wine, whose unique point is the inclusion of wormwood ('vermut' in German).
What is the role of vermut in Spanish culture? In Basque culture specifically?
Vermouth has a long tradition in Spanish culture. It's strongest in Madrid and Cataluña, where every Sunday families would head to the nearest bar after Mass to have a drink to pass the time until lunch. "Fer un vermut" is a Cataluñan phrase that means 'to do a vermouth' but is really used as a broad invitation to get a drink at midday. That should give you an idea of how ubiquitous the tradition is. Vermouth is not particularly Basque...whatever influence and popularity it has here comes from the Spanish side of things.
What prompted you to begin the International Society for the Preservation and Enjoyment of Vermut?
My friend Maite and I had been talking for months about doing an event around vermouth. Finally we said, okay, let's just do it, and even if it's not perfect, it will likely be fun. So as we were setting up the event, we thought, there should really be something bigger behind this. And I get so passionate about food, drink, and tradition. So we formed the society.
My journey in the world of vermouth started only about three years ago, a while after I moved to San Sebastián. I noticed old ladies were always drinking this incredibly colored beverage around 5 or 6pm. One day, I asked what it was and tried one. It was love at first sip.
How has the response been from locals?
Overwhelmingly positive! For our first event, people came from Barcelona and Bilbao, it was incredible. I think vermouth hits the sweet spot of something both nostalgic and modern.
What are your goals for the Society?
To have fun, try every vermouth under the sun, make thousands of vermouth converts and serve as an information hub for vermouth lovers everywhere. We are also experimenting with crafting some artisan vermouths, but that's secret....shhhh. ;)
Any recommendations for Americans looking to enjoy vermut? Best way to drink it? Best accompaniments?
Yes! Any vermouth you can get your hands on BESIDES Martini will be so much more herbaceous, flavorful, and true to real vermouth. In fact, there are some great American artisan vermouths out there (Imbue, Atsby, Uncouth, etc). For the american palate, sweet vermouth served alone may be shocking at first. If so, you can cut it with a bit of gin to take some of the sweet and herby edge off. Serve with an orange slice, an olive, and some potato chips to snack on.
Thank you, Marti!