I think I need to add one more reason to visit Turin to my list.
Do you remember my post listing 10 reasons to add Turin to your Italy itinerary? Well, I think I need to update that post because I have found a new reason to go there and it is awesome!
A few weeks ago, I was very kindly invited by Jo-In, a tour operator based in Turin, to try some of their services. This tour operator, managed by very young people, aims to promote Turin and its region, Piedmont, offering customized, thematic and unusual trips. I have been following their work for a while and I was really happy to directly experience how they work and what they offer.
They have a very friendly yet super professional approach, which is something I really appreciate, and they have a deep knowledge of their region, its products, and its traditions plus a great love for what they do, which I believe is what makes the difference between a boring standardized tour and an awesome experience.
When they asked me what kind of service I was interested in trying, I had no doubts: Esperienza Vermouth was my number 1 choice. I have to admit that I have been a bit selfish because I love vermouth, but I thought that this could be a very interesting experience for you as well.
But what is Esperienza Vermouth?
It is one evening about vermouth, where you can learn more about the history of this amazing drink born in Turin and make your own vermouth as well. As a matter of fact, after telling you about the history of vermouth and the way it is made, the host lets you experiment with the ingredients and create a unique drink, your own personal vermouth, that you can bring home with you.
As I told you, I really like vermouth. I have always been a fan of cocktails using this ingredient but I have to admit that I discovered vermouth as a drink on its own in Spain, where it is commonly served for the aperitivo, only a few years ago.
After trying it, I fell in love with it and I wanted to learn more about it. To my big surprise, I realized that it was invented in Italy, Turin precisely. Actually, I remember that a vermouth bottle was always on display at my grandmother’s house, ready to be served before dinner, but it never came to my mind that it could be an Italian drink. And it kind of went forgotten for a while, replaced by fancier drinks, so I never paid that much attention to it (thank God, it is trendy again!).
So this experience was a chance to have fun, obviously, but also a way to learn more about something so Italian – and so Piedmontese, actually. But let me tell you more about it.
In case you don’t know about it, vermouth is a drink in which at least 75% is wine (usually white wine, but red wine can be used too) and aromatized with a variety of spices and herbs, the most important of which is wormwood. You can have red, white or rosè vermouth and it can be sweet, dry or extra-dry.
The history of flavored wines dates back to the Greek: it seems that their creator was Hippocrates, who macerated wine with wormwood and other spices obtaining this unique drink. Over the centuries, the recipe for this wine has been kept alive and constantly modified. However, the vermouth that we know today was born in Turin in 1786.
In that year, Antonio Benedetto Carpano, in a small lab in the center of the city, finalized a process of aromatization of wines that had been lasting for centuries. The drink was immediately a hit, turning its liquor store into the most popular bar in the city.
With vermouth being so popular, many other companies in Turin started producing it: Cora, Gancia, Martini & Rossi, Cinzano are the most famous of them. Vermouth became the most common drink to be had for aperitivo and there was even “l’ora del vermouth“, that time around 6 pm when people enjoyed a drink after work in one of the many bars in the center of the city.
Actually, this is only a very short summary of what we have been told on that evening, the history of vermouth is way more complex and interesting.
While we were told about the drink, the vermouth expert encouraged us to smell and taste all the different herbs, spices and essences we had in front of us, telling us more about their effects and their results when used in the drink, so that when the moment came we were ready to prepare our own vermouth.
On the table in front of us, we had some white wine, a white or red base, sugar, some caramel in case we wanted to add some red color to the drink and an incredible selection of herbs and spices, which we could play with until we found the perfect mixture.
The vermouth expert was always there to help and guide us, giving suggestions about percentages, taste, and possible results. When we felt ready, we bottled our little drink, which we brought home to be kept in the fridge for at least a month before we could taste it (I still haven’t tried it!).
In case you visit Turin, I totally recommend this experience because it is a way to learn something more about the culture of the city and to bring home a very special souvenir. And if you don’t like vermouth, they have a whole variety of other experiences about products of the city – like the ones about perfumes or gianduiotto chocolate. All experiences are available in English as well, so you don’t need to be fluent in Italian to enjoy them.