La Hora del Vermut: What You Need to Know About Madrid's Most Treasured Tradition

Vermouth and some olives | © Kerinin/Flickr
Vermouth and some olives | © Kerinin/Flickr
Photo of Lori Zaino
23 June 2017

La Hora del Vermut, meaning “the Vermouth hour,” is a specific time to drink vermouth, but it’s also a way of life here in Spain. Drinking vermouth is a treasured tradition Madrileños have been savoring for years. Enjoying the slightly bitter wine fortified in herbs is something both tourists and locals can try at almost any bar or restaurant in Madrid. Read on to find out everything you ever wanted to know about the history, the details, and the resurgence of vermouth in Madrid.

It’s a pre-lunch treat.

Tradtionally, la hora de vermut was just before lunch. The idea was to drink a vermouth before eating to “wake up” your appetite. The vermouth, paired with a good tapa, would prepare your stomach for lunch. Although many now drink beer before lunch, vermouth is known as being a more elegant and highbrow aperitivo. These days, though, you can drink vermouth whenever you feel like it – not just before lunch.

Different vermouths | © Tamorlan/Wikipedia

It was on the decline after the 1970s.

After Franco’s death and the political transition to democracy, Madridleños rejected vermouth for awhile during the famous Movida Madrileña. The vermouth tradition was dismissed as passé, something only older people did. Youth favored wine or beer to the stronger fortified wine.

But now it’s back.

Vermouth is trending once again in Madrid. Often called the new gin and tonic, drinking vermouth has become hip once again over the past couple of years. The Spanish press can’t stop writing about it, and several books have been written on vermouth in the past few years in Spain. Part of this could be attributed to the fact that Madrid is going through a bit of a food and drink revolution, with new concepts (and old ones, like vermouth) growing in popularity.

It’s on tap.

Many bars in Madrid actually have vermouth on tap. It’s usually located next to the beer taps, making it easy and quick to serve up a vermouth drink at any hour of the day.

Vermouth taps | © Kerinin/Flickr

It pairs well with tapas.

Vermouth pairs perfectly with tapas. Some of the most popular ones are olives, mussels, anchovies or sardines, but really, it pairs well with almost any savory food item.

Madrid tapas | © Fen Labalme/Flickr

Over 20 wineries in Spain make vermouth.

Right now, there’s many wineries in Spain that make vermouth. One of the most famous is Yzaguirre, which dates back to 1884 and is located in the Tarragona region.

There are a few additions.

Most people in Madrid drink their vermouth with a couple extras. These extras could be ice, an olive, an orange wedge or, depending on the bar you’re at, a splash of sparkling water.

Vermouth and some olives | © Kerinin/Flickr

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