substituting vermouth for wine in recipes

You know all of those cooking shows and recipes (ahem, like ones on this very site — guilty!) that suggest cooking with wine is really fun because once you’ve opened a bottle for cooking, you get to drink the rest? Then there’s a series of “ah-ha-ha!”s and LOLs; it’s all very raucous. And look, people, I love a glass of wine with dinner from time to time but fact is, a lot of the time I open a bottle of wine for cooking, we forget to finish it, and this makes me very, very sad.

Enter dry vermouth. (The other variety of vermouth, usually red or pink, is called “sweet,” I like that, in part, for Manhattans, not that you asked.) Vermouth is a fortified white wine that is mildly aromatized with a variety of “botanicals,” such as herbs, spices, and fruits. Apparently, the word vermouth is derived from the German word for wormwood, wermut, as wormwood was the chief flavoring ingredient for vermouth until the herb was found to be poisonous, which I am sure was tremendously awkward. Nevertheless, the main reason I like to have vermouth around is its shelf life. When stored in the fridge (and you should, because this extends its shelf life), dry vermouth is good for anywhere between three and six months. (Sweet vermouth will keep for a year this way.) This means if you need just a splash here or there for a recipe, you don’t have to uncork a bottle of wine you may not finish before it quickly turns. Vermouth is also a lot less expensive than drinking wines. Gallo, the favorite in a Cook’s Illustrated taste test, costs only $5 for a 750ml bottle. The fancy-pants Dolin brand I picture above, almost considered too nice for everyday cooking, was $16.

A few usage notes: Vermouth’s flavor is of course a little different from a straight white table wine, due to the herbs and spices, so it may not be for everyone, but I find it to be lovely when cooking savory dishes. Due to the fortification, vermouth has a slightly higher percentage of alcohol than white wine (16 to 18 percent versus wine’s 12.5 to 14.5 percent), which means if you’re trying to partly “cook off” the alcohol it may need an extra minute of simmering time. But I find that it can be seamlessly interchanged with wine in just about any recipe, and deliciously so.

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21 comments on substituting vermouth for wine in recipes

    1. deb

      Hi Max — No, or nothing I’ve thought of. However, some wineries sell non-alcoholic grape juice that tastes spectacularly like wine (aged, not sweet) but it’s hardly an inexpensive alternative.

      Amanda — I started it years ago as a place to house answers to the kinds of cooking questions I am asked a lot in comments, and to share tips I loved. Of course, I hadn’t updated in almost a year; it’s more of a sporadic thing and it still doesn’t have a proper archive. I keep a link in the sidebar under “Resources” but realize that I might have accidentally deleted the RSS link. It is: and I just put it back up in the header so clicking the RSS icon in your browser should subscribe you to it.

  1. Camelia

    @ Max. I have used a good quality balsamic vinegar in place of red wine with success in many a recipe, and perhaps port or sherry (being fortified red wines) for sweet dishes?

  2. Kelly G

    Thanks so much! I’m not a wine drinker, and I never know what wines to buy when recipes call for it. This is a great tip.

  3. Amanda

    Wait, what? You have a tips section? When did that happen? And why can’t I get these posts to show up in an RSS feed so I know when you post a new one? I can only get the regular posts, and I need all the smitten kitchen I can get… :D

  4. Rebecca

    Hi Deb ~ I have an answer for you and Max about the red wine. Get yourself an icecube tray (or two) and fill it up with the red you don’t drink. Freeze it, put the cubes in a baggie in the freezer and. . BAM! You have perfect little cubes (that I believe are just about a tablespoon) to use for recipes when you only need just a bit (I also do this with leftover tomato paste). No wasted red wine!

    And Deb ~ congrats on your book. .just can’t wait!!

  5. Angela

    Hooray! Thanks for the great tip. I don’t drink very much, so alcohol in recipes usually makes me pause and reconsider (which is a terrible thing).

  6. I’ve always wondered if the alcohol really cooks off in dishes. I’ve made the mushroom bourguignon often for friends, even for kids and I wonder if there’s still alcohol in it when it’s done. If so, I should probably stop cooking these dishes for families with kids or women who are pregnant… and instead keep it all for myself.

  7. Sam R

    Alcohol does not cook off in dishes any more than water cooks off. (So, yes, the amount is reduced but it never magically disappears.) I wouldn’t worry that much about children (cf. Europe), but never serve dishes that included ANY alcohol in the cooking process to people with dietary or religious restrictions. See: or

    And feel free to tell your friends. My wife has an extremely sensitive physiological intolerance to alcohol, and we’re tired of hearing that it “cooks off.” Particularly from idiot waiters.

    1. Raymonds

      NOT true. I have to post here to correct this. The alcohol DOES cook off, as it is much more volatile than the water. Don’t believe me? When you add Vermouth or Marsala to a sauce in a pan you can light it with a match or lighter and you will get a decent flame over the pan (be careful!). A lot of fancy restaurants show this when they finish a dish (Rum in a desert topping) for added affect. Anyhow, you will see that the flame only lasts for a few seconds, and you cannot relight it. Is the alcohol 100% gone, no, but there is only a trace amount left.

  8. Diane

    Thanks everyone for your tips on cooking with wine, how to store it, and substituting for wine. I have never cooked with wine but have shied away from recipes that called for it. I will attempt to make my first dish that calls for sherry or vermouth wine today. Thanks again;-)

  9. Francisco

    Hi Deb,

    Long-time fan here of both your blog and your recent book! I think this is a great tip, and I have a quick question. I recently bought a small bottle of Dolin Blanc (so, not Dry, but not Rouge), and it seems to fall right in between the latter two as far as flavor and sweetness. Would you recommend using this as a sub for dry white wine like in risottos? Or should it stay relegated to cocktail-making? Thanks!

  10. Michelle

    I’m just chiming in to say that I discovered this tip a few years back, and it is life-changing. These days, I wouldn’t dream of making a pan gravy for poultry with anything but Vermouth!

  11. Mark H.

    Hmmm. And here I’ve been using years-old vermouth stored in my cupboard while cooking my risotto. This could be why I’ve not really noticed it imparting _any_ flavor to the dish. I’ll make sure to get a new bottle.

  12. I learned this great tip from my mom. I always have a bottle of dry vermouth in the refrigerator for cooking and for martinis! :) Good to know about the Cook’s Illustrated test; I’ll try Gallo.

  13. Sophie

    I learned this tip of using vermouth when I was making a Barefoot Contessa risotto recipe. I also can’t finish an entire bottle of wine after I’ve opened it for only a quarter or half cup in a recipe, so subbing vermouth has been a great way to be more economical. But, I didn’t know to store the opened bottle in the frig, which I will do now. BTW, I also have the very small bottles of white and red wines for when I really want wine in the recipe. Thanks!

  14. Rachel

    Hi Max, I’ve used dry Marsala for substituting small amounts of red wine in cooking, as it’s got better longevity than regular red wine. I also do the freezer thing with leftover wine. I note the amount and type and date on the ziploc bag – knowing the amount and type can really help when you’re cooking. I’ve also learned to always use freezer bags (vs regular) ziploc bags after some slushy leaks!!

  15. Tracey Macaskill

    I don’t know anyone who cooks with wine that can’t finish the bottle that they use. Any chef will tell you to use the wine that you would pair with the dish in the recipe leaving maybe 2 glasses each in the bottle.