Vermú time or the Spanish tradition of the aperitivo

These wines are typically European, and generally you can find two types: red and white. According to a theory, these drinks were invented by Hippocrates. He macerated wormwood flowers and aromatic leaves in wine and obtained what in the Middle Ages was called ‘Hippocratic wine’.

From the end of the 18th century, with the arrival of new technology, aromatized wine came on the scene, but it was in 1838, when, thanks to the merit of the brothers Luigi and Giuseppe Cora, elaboration of vermouth started to have an industrial character.

The arrival of vermouth in Spain took place at the end of the 19th century. The Italian Perucchi brought his recipe to Spain in 1860 and produced it in Barcelona. Thus, Catalonia is now considered as the cradle of Spanish vermouth. The red Italian vermouth is sweet, while white French vermouth is dry, and is higher in alcohol.


Vermú with olives. | Shutterstock

It’s vermú time or, like it is said, to ‘make the vermú’

The tradition of having a vermú in the Spanish aperitivo is very extended throughout the Spanish geography. Having a vermú or the vermú time became popular in Spain during the Franco era, when lower-middle class families gathered in the bars and taverns of the village on Sundays after midday mass.

It is actually one of the most deeply rooted social traditions in Spain and it is nothing more than spending time with your friends and family, sitting on a terrace to enjoy the aperitivo. Usually, that moment of peace accompanied by some olives or chips is usually washed down with a vermouth.


Friends toasting with vermú. | Shutterstock

But… attention! The vermú time is not something typically Spanish. On the contrary, all of Europe has its vermú time, but here we go a little bit the other way around. In Spain, vermú is enjoyed between 12 and 13 noon, always before lunch. However, in the rest of Europe this hour arrives just before dinner.

Spanish gastronomy is a fundamental part of our culture, with a long and exciting history. With so many different regions, products and traditions, a great variety and rich cuisine is something that comes with it. But if there is something that defines it is, perhaps, the fine art of the aperitivo and the famous Spanish tapas. Although it is not an exclusively Spanish tradition, it does have some very particular things that have become a sign of identity known throughout the world.

But… what exactly is an aperitivo?

vermú with aperitivo

An aperitivo with vermú. | Shutterstock

It might look like a simple question but the answer is not. In Spain one thing is clear: a small meal that is taken with a drink before the main meal is called ‘aperitivo’. Although it is also true that everyone can interpret this time of the day in their own way, making it shorter or longer, and giving more or less importance to the drink.

Even between communities, every region has its own way to have an aperitivo with the vermú. From the fried fiesh in Andalusia (or pescaíto frito) to the classical pintxos in the Basque Country, or torreznos in the more central parts of Spain.

The association of the word with a time of refreshment is relatively recent, as it was previously associated with the third meaning, in medical use, ‘a thing that opens and clears the ways.’ The word comes from ‘Latin, aperitīvus, adjective form of aperĭre (‘to open’). It is about whetting the apetite, and for this it is necessary to refresh the throat with some liquid that should be enjoyed by a light snack.

A very Spanish tradition


Vermú. | Shutterstock

Nowadays, there are even some places in Spain, such as Madrid or Valencia, that have seen the birth of bars dedicated to the ‘vermouth hour’ where it is possible to find vermouth menus with more than 150 different varieties, including artisanal vermouths, combinations with other alcoholic drinks and more commercial vermouths.

Either way, this tradition is very Spanish and gathering in terraces and bars is one of the best things of visiting Spain, enjoying the sun and our friends with a good vermú and a typical aperitivo.

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