Vermouth is a type of fortified wine that is made by adding spirits to wine and infusing with a proprietary blend of botanicals. It has been used as a flavor enhancer in many cocktails for years, including classic cocktails like the Martini and the Manhattan.
Vermouth was popular starting in the 1800s and comes in dry and sweet varieties. Over the past several years there has been a resurgence of interest in old fashioned cocktails, many of which include vermouth. A variety of new aperitif and fortified wines (of which vermouth is both) have been introduced to the U.S. market.
While I wait for the kosher market to catch up with some artisanal and craft vermouth varieties that can bring your cocktail to the next level, I have been experimenting with the only kosher vermouth commercially available, by Kedem.
It turns out there is way more you can do with vermouth than just Martinis and Manhattans, neither of which I care for very much. Unlike most spirits, vermouth can't sit on your shelf for months, once open it needs to be refrigerated and used within a month or less. However, if you start using vermouth to cook with in addition to your cocktails you will have no trouble using it up.
I have been using vermouth in place of wine in all my recipes from risotto, to sautéed green beans, to fondue, to chicken. The flavor works perfectly and the price is right too, at under $10/bottle I can have my drink and risotto too.
My current drink of choice is a riff on the Pisco Sour that I call Shaken Not Stirred using a raw egg white for texture and foam. The vermouth adds a very nice flavor and complexity to this refreshing drink, I prefer it with the dry vermouth, which I don't find very dry, but if all they have is sweet, it will do.
If you want to get a little more interesting in vermouth choices you can always try to make your own.