DIY Sweet Vermouth

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.

Notes:

  • 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.
  • Yield:about 750 milliliters
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  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.