Vermouth is a fortified wine flavored with aromatic herbs and spices ("aromatized" in the trade) in recipes that are closely-guarded trade secrets. Its inventor, Antonio Benedetto Carpano from Turin, chose this name in 1786 because he was inspired by a German wine fortified with wormwood, a herb most famously used in distilling absinthe. The modern German word Wermut means both wormwood and vermouth. The herbs were originally used to mask raw flavors of cheap wine, imparting a slightly medicinal "tonic" flavor.
There are three styles of vermouth, in order from driest to sweetest: dry, sweet/red, and bianco/white. The sweet red vermouth is drunk as an apéritif, often straight up, as well as in mixed drinks like The Manhattan. Dry white vermouth, along with gin or vodka, is a key ingredient in the mixing of martinis, in proportions that may account for the lackluster sales of dry white vermouths. Sweet red vermouth is combined with whiskey and a maraschino cherry to create a "Manhattan cocktail." A sweet white vermouth is also made.