DIY Sweet Vermouth

Sweet vermouth has a delicate balance of rich, spicy, sweet, and bitter flavors, and is an essential ingredient in dozens of classic cocktails.


  • Wormwood leaf is a bitter herb that can be a bit difficult to find. Contrary to rumor, a little wormwood in your cocktail will not cause hallucinations. Lhasa Karnak sells it online and at their Berkeley stores.
  • Use a dry white wine for this recipe; it shouldn't be fancy, but avoid something heavily oaked. Pinot Grigio works well.
  • Use caution when you caramelize sugar, as it becomes scalding hot. If you pour a cool liquid on hot caramelized sugar, it will harden like candy.
  • Vermouth should be stored in the refrigerator and is best if used within a month. Though it will take longer than that for it to "go bad," like wine it will taste flat and develop off flavors if kept too long.

DIY Sweet Vermouth

About This Recipe

Yield:about 750 milliliters
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:30 minutes
Special equipment:zester or peeler
This recipe appears in: DIY vs. Buy: Should I Make My Own Sweet Vermouth?


  • 1 orange
  • 3 1/4 cups white wine, divided
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon dried chamomile
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender
  • 1/4 teaspoon wormwood leaf
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup sweet or India sherry


  1. 1

    Zest the orange and set aside the rest of the orange for another use.

  2. 2

    Pour 1 cup of the wine into a pot and set the rest aside. Add all the orange zest, cinnamon stick, chamomile, cardamom, star anise, lavender, and wormwood and cook on medium heat until it comes to a boil, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Strain out solids and return liquid to the pot.

  3. 3

    In a separate pot, pour in the sugar and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, to caramelize it. Once sugar melts into a caramel-colored liquid, in about 5 minutes, turn off the heat and let caramelized sugar cool.

  4. 4

    Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan or tea kettle, then measure 1/4 cup and slowly pour it into caramelized sugar, stirring as you pour. Be careful!

  5. 5

    Add remaining wine (2 1/4 cups) to the herb-infused wine. Bring it to a boil, then pour it slowly into the pot of caramelized sugar syrup, stirring frequently to integrate them. Add brandy and sherry, then let cool. Pour cooled mixture into a bottle, seal and store in the refrigerator.


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