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What Constitutes The Adonis Cocktail? Unveiling The Secrets Of Vermouth And Sherry

adonis cocktail

Adonis is notable for being the ideal low-alcohol cocktail. The drink has a rich history and a classic flavour profile acquired by the use of vermouth and sherry. It is light to taste and delicious in flavour. Learn more about the distinctive notes that come from vermouth and sherry.


Vermouth was created in Turin, Italy in the 18th century. A shop boy, Antonio Benedetto Carpano, perfected the recipe at the Merendazzo liquor and wine store in Piazza Castello, which was then called Piazza delle Fiere. Today, as per Italian law, vermouth needs to be made up of at least 75% wine, fortified and flavoured with infused herbs and spices. It must include artemisia (mugwort), in its Pontica and Absinthium varieties. Herbs and dried buds lend vermouth its characteristic flavour profile.


White wine is the preferred alcohol but red and rosé versions also exist. While vermouth was available only in one, deep amber-coloured version till 1912, white wine came to be used more commonly after a liquor brand launched this version. Its white wine vermouth also had rose petals and elderberry flowers which added to its flavour. The vermouth, which was then a luxurious golden colour later evolved to have a much darker, red hue with bitter, spicier, woody flavour. Today, five recognised types of vermouth exist—white, red, rosé, dry, extra dry.

Herbs And Spices

Vermouth gets its distinctive taste when herbs and spices are balanced and do not take centre stage in its flavour profile. They are supposed to blend with other ingredients harmoniously. Below are the ingredients that are often seen in vermouth.

Bitter ingredients:

Bitter flavours are provided by herbs and wood such as mugwort. There are recipes which also use rhubarb, gentian, hyssop, calamus, angelica, aloe, cinchona and quassia wood. Every ingredient has its own peculiar bitter flavour.

Aromatic/balsamic ingredients:

Thyme, mint, rosemary, oregano, savoury, sage, lemon balm, marjoram, fennel, aniseed, and saffron give vermouth provide aromatic and balsamic notes to the liquor.

Citrus ingredients:

The vermouth has a characteristic citrus flavour which is refreshing and subtle. Pink grapefruit, lemon, sweet orange and bitter orange help in making vermouth citrusy.

Flowery ingredients:

Flowery notes are present, especially in white versions. Vermouth notably has the fragrance of chamomile, rose, iris and elderberry.


Choosing the right spice is key to making a good vermouth. Spices provide vermouth its signature flavour. Coriander, juniper berries, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, star aniseed, ginger, vanilla, tonka beans, coffee, cocoa are popular choices for the liquor.

adonis cocktail


Sherry is a fortified wine hailing from southern Spain. It is made using a production process which is highly nuanced and takes time. 

Types Of Sherry

We get different types of sherry because there are different ways in which it is fermented, alcohol level, and the fermentation process. Depending on these factors, sherry can be sweet, crisp, nutty, rich or light or a combination of all these aspects. We can narrow down common types of sherry as seen below.

Fino: Crisp, dry, yeasty sherry which has 15% alcohol content.

Manzanilla: A type of fino but from a more humid environment that gives it a very fresh taste.

Amontillado: Another type of Fino, which is aged owing to which it has a nutty, rich taste. It has about 17% alcohol content.

Palo Cortado: This sherry achieves the middle ground between fino and amontillado. It is nutty, but also fresh.

Oloroso: This sherry is super rich and flavour-heavy as it has undergone a high level of oxidation.

Pedro Ximenez: This one is a sweet dessert sherry made using air-dried grapes.

Cream: A commercial product which is further sweetened by adding Moscatel and/or Pedro Ximinez.

Using Sherry In Cocktails

When sherry began to feature as an ingredient in cocktails, it was always cream sherry that was being used, mainly as a replacement for different spirits. Sherry perfectly works as a replacement with its complex flavour profile. Presently, mixologists pair sherry with an unexpected spirit such as tequila and gin, as these liquors go well with lighter sherries. Sherries with brighter, higher note qualities can balance or replace ingredients with acidic or drier properties. Dry sherries like fino and manzanilla balance citrusy cocktails, while sweeter, denser sherries such as Oloroso and Pedro Ximinez blend well with brown spirit cocktails such as Old Fashioneds and Manhattans.

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