Where to drink vermouth in Madrid

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Before living in Spain, I made a big mistake: I didn’t like vermouth. I considered it a simple cocktail ingredient and, with its bitter, dry taste, relatively low in the hierarchy of drinks. The wine empire keeps growing, tequila never goes out of style, and beer is the ultimate refreshment. But the vermouth? Who would drink vermouth alone?

Then I arrived in Madrid and everything became clear.

The city isn’t the birthplace of vermouth – the drink’s origins date back to ancient Greece and early Chinese dynasties who celebrated it for its supposed medicinal properties (it’s meant to calm the stomach). But Madrid is undoubtedly one of the best places in the world to consume it, where it is served neat, chilled or on ice, and garnished with orange or lemon. And while you can drink vermouth at virtually any bar here, it’s the specialty taverns that stand out.

Vermuterias are scattered throughout the city – often small, intimate, historic taverns highly prized by locals as ideal spots to let time slowly slip away to the sound of ice cream. These are often traditional bars with an increasingly young and trendy clientele.

In fact, for several decades after Francisco Franco’s death, much of Spain recoiled against traditions, including vermut time (vermouth time), which usually arrived just before Sunday lunch.

But now the vermouth has a moment again, and it has converted me into a fan of this aromatic, fortified and delicious wine, with its powerful load of plants, herbs, fruits and spices.

In vermuterias, the aperitif can be served on tap or from dozens of bottles from different producers. The bars aren’t just rekindling Spain’s deep-rooted love of drinking; they also bolster the country‘s vermouth culture, in all its icy, orange-peeled, bittersweet glory.

Casa Camacho

Calle de San Andres 4, 28004 Madrid

  • Good for: A real vermuteria experience in a five-generation family establishment

  • Not so good for: Sitting and drinking slowly. Standing at the bar, that’s what this place is

  • FOR YOUR INFORMATION: As a sign at Casa Camacho explains, singing is strictly forbidden. One of the owners said, “If you want to sing, go to karaoke. If you want to dance, go to a club. It’s a vermouth bar. He added: “The singing here is very bad anyway.” So if you’re in a musical mood after a few Yayos, you should take it outside

  • directions (no website)

Casa Camacho opened in the 1920s

Casa Camacho owner Miguel Ángel Gonzalez Pérez behind his bar, with small barrels on the wall to his left

The barrels on the walls of the bar – seen here behind owner Miguel Ángel Gonzalez Pérez – were once used to sell alcohol on the street

If you want a local feel for an inimitable corner of Madrid, you can’t beat Casa Camacho. Located in the trendy Malasaña district, this cramped bar has been serving vermouth since the 1920s. The interior design seems virtually unchanged since then — save for a flat-screen TV, microwave, and refrigerator. a cash register. The barrels hung on the wall, steeped in history, were once used to sell alcohol in the street. And cramped means cramped: you have to go out of limbo under the bar to get to the toilet.

Casa Camacho is not the kind of place that serves a wide range of vermouths. Instead, it offers a vermouth menu consisting of precisely three items: solo, vermut soda Where typical vermut.

Two glasses of vermouth on a table at Casa Camacho

Casa Camacho serves vermouth three ways

Shelves stacked with wine bottles above a blackboard with 'Vermouth' and 'Yayos' written on it

The house specialty of the bar is the yayo: vermouth, sparkling water and gin

This last option is also known as Yayo, a house specialty that is a mixture of sparkling water, vermouth and gin. It sits at the dry, bitter end of the vermouth scale, dangerously easy on the tongue, with an effervescent head and served without ice. If you want a snack to keep the drink company, Casa Camacho offers impeccable dried anchovies, eggplant pickles, olives and ham.

Latazo

Antón Martín Market, Calle de Santa Isabel 5, 28012 Madrid

  • Good for: Sip Spanish vermouths while admiring the beautiful vegetables on sale in the market

  • Not so good for: Eat tapas or snack. Food choice is limited

  • FOR YOUR INFORMATION: In the camaraderie of the market, you’ll likely find yourself chatting to the Spanish group at the next table over their favorite vermouth.

  • Website; directions

Madrid’s markets – and their wide variety – are among the city’s gems. They differ from neighborhood to neighborhood and sell almost everything from socks to baby artichokes.

    Three glasses of vermouth photographed from above in Latazo

Three of Latazo’s vermouths

    Roger, the owner of Latazo, standing in front of a blackboard

Roger González de Vera, owner of Latazo. His jewel bar is in the city’s Antón Martín Market

Installing a vermuteria inside a market is also one of Madrid’s best innovations. Take the Antón Martín Market to the heart of the city, with its little food stalls, grocery stores and bars – just about everything Madridians need for the weekend. He hosts the Latazo vermuteria, a joint with only three tables but many types of vermouth. These include drinks from all over Spain, but also a few Italian variations, perhaps a friendly gesture towards a fellow Mediterranean. Servers are very knowledgeable about the vermouths they serve and are keen to explain which varieties suit which tastes (for example, Spanish vermouths are often darker and a bit sweeter than Italian). A favorite is El Gato Orgulloso, or The Proud Cat (“cat” being slang for an authentic Madrileño), which strikes a good balance between bitterness and sweetness. This is served, like Latazo’s other offerings, in a bulb-shaped wine glass filled with ice.

Taberna La Concha

Calle de la Cava Baja 7, 28005 Madrid

  • Good for: Artisanal vermouth and large portions of delicious tapas. Bacalao with caviar salsa is a must

  • Not so good for: Hot days when you want to have a drink on the terrace

  • FOR YOUR INFORMATION: “La Concha” and “Manuela” both have a sexually suggestive double meaning, but everyone behaved when Globetrotter came calling.

  • Website; directions

    La Concha's house specialty of vermouth, gin and Campari in a martini glass

La Concha’s house specialty is vermouth, gin and campari. . .

    A cutout of Humphrey Bogart on the wall of La Concha

. . . is called Manuela (“open your taste buds to appreciate its nuances”)

It’s a bar with a mission. Taberna La Concha aspires to elevate Madrid’s vermouth culture in style. The tavern is located in La Latina, a lively nightlife district, and its owner, Francisco Rosas, is a vermouth producer himself. Instead of just serving vermouth from other producers, he searches for the perfect blend to serve his customers. Its house brand is called, perhaps unsurprisingly, La Concha.

La Concha owner Francisco Rosas is also a vermouth producer La Concha owner Francisco Rosas at the door of his bar

La Concha owner Francisco Rosas is also a vermouth product

A fish tapas on a glass plate at La Concha

Soak up the bar’s artisanal vermouth with its delicious tapas

The owners, servers and customers of this small vermuteria are all vermouth aficionados. His house vermouth specialty is called Manuela and is served in a triangle-shaped martini glass with an olive on a toothpick and an orange twist. A touch of gin and Campari is added to make it drier and more bitter. It is too full-bodied to be called a cocktail; you have to open your taste buds to appreciate its nuances.

The violet

Calle de Vallehermoso 62, 28015 Madrid

  • Good for: Sip your vermouth on the terrace with generous portions of olives and tapas

  • Not so good for: Spanish foodies – it’s mostly bar food

  • FOR YOUR INFORMATION You can have two glasses of vermouth and a small plate of tapas for less than €10

  • Website; directions

Two vermouths and a tapas for less than €10 at La Violeta

The interior of La Violeta

The bar is in the trendy district of Chamberí

La Violeta is serious about its vermouth. Located in the bohemian-bourgeois district of Chamberí, this local vermuteria is as authentic as it gets, buzzing with great music and serving vermouth to its relatively young clientele.

The management team is also young, determined to offer sanctuary to vermouth connoisseurs. The bar offers over 30 different brands of vermouth. The menu even ranks them on a bitter-to-sweet scale to guide vermouth lovers, while grading their strength.

A bottle of red vermouth on a table at La Violeta

On its menu, La Violeta classifies its vermouths on a scale from bitter to sweet.

    A bartender behind the counter at La Violeta seasoning a plate of tapas

The bar has a relatively young staff and clientele

The drinks themselves are grouped by red, white and Reserve vermouths and range from extremely dry sweetness to desert wine sweetness. But none are likely to break the bank. The reservations go from €3.50 to €4 a glass.

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