Vermouth

Carpano Antica – Formula of Vermouth

benedettocarpano

It’s a very fanciful story. What is interesting, though, is how Carpano decided to brand his concoction; “vermouth” is not an Italian word, it is based on the Germanic word wermut for “wormwood.” During the time period that Carpano was perfecting his recipe, the famous Prussian author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was touring Italy, both compiling information on his first, and landmark, scientific work The Metamorphosis of Plants and sight-seeing ancient Greco-Roman architectural sites. As Goethe walked among the ruins of ancient Rome—that first unifying European empire, he searched for the equivalent in the plant world.

johann-heinrich-wilhelm

Though Goethe did not find the primordial ancestor to contemporary plant life (his research came 80 years before Darwin’s Origin of Species) while in Italy, he may have found an acolyte in the herbalist Antonio Carpano. It is interesting to me that, as noted above, Carpano chose to use the German name for wormwood—the main botanical ingredient in his beverage—as its official title. The fortified wine, as we know, was most likely invented by those same Romans who left such monumental marks on the Italian landscape. Perhaps naming his fortified wine “vermut” was Carpano’s ode to the millennia-old interaction between Italo-Roman and Germanic peoples and a celebration of Goethe’s visit and research. Maybe it was love and admiration at first sip for the herbalist and botanist?

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