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.
- Yield:about 750 milliliters
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 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
Zest the orange and set aside the rest of the orange for another use.
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.
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.
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!
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.