Next in our “DIY Cocktail” series, Flynn McLennan, Owner/Bartender at Kagura in Surry Hills shows us step by step how to make vermouth.
His recipe for sweet vermouth is one that he makes regularly at his venue. He describes it as “bitter and sweet, citrusy and herbal, a bit of a potpourri with big caramel notes and a hint of medicinal notes”. The flavour can also be similar in style to Antica Formula.
Wormwood is the quintessential botanical for making vermouth (refer to the Essential Guide to Vermouth). You also need bittering agents. The rest of the botanicals is based on a personal choice. For example, if you like a floral style of vermouth, use a range of flowers.
In his method of making vermouth, Flynn adds vodka and wine to the botanical mixture at the same time. He explains that the vodka can act as a preservative and prevents the liquid from turning.
This style of vermouth works very well in a Hanky Panky, Manhattan and Martinez.
How to Make Vermouth – A Step by Step Guide
Equipment You Need
- airtight jar with metal clasp lid
- soup stock bag (otherwise fine cheesecloth or coffee filter)
- 2 large jugs
- large sieve
- spoon for mixing sugar
- 700 ml dry white wine such as Pinot Gris or Verdejo
- 300 ml vodka
- 1.5 cups of white sugar
- 2 tablespoons of artemisia absinthium (wormwood)
- 70 g citrus peel (orange, mandarin, grapefruit, not lemon or lime)
- 1 g pimento berries
- 10 g or 16 slices angelica root
- 6 g or 6 slices of burdock
- 10 g or 3 tablespoons of chamomile flowers
- 10 g or 1 tablespoon rosebuds (choose variety used in tea)
- 5 g / 1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds
- 2 g sanchi flowers (strong flavour like hops)
- 2 g or 1 tablespoon of elderflower (chrysanthemum is a good substitute)
- 5 g or 1 tablespoon of lily flowers (impart a caramel flavour)
- 2 g or 1 teaspoon of hibiscus flowers (imparts red colour)
- 2 g or 1/2 teaspoon of osmanthus fragrans (sweet olives)
- 2 g Japanese honeysuckle
- 5 g or 5-6 slices of liquorice root
- 3 star anise
- 1 g or 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1 g or 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds or 3-4 cardamom pods
- 5 cloves
- 2 g or 2 tablespoons juniper berries
- 10 g or 10 semi-dried mandarin segments
1. Put all botanicals into a large jar with a metal clasp lid. Top with wine and vodka and give it a good stir to mix well.
2. Leave in a dry, cool spot for 1 month. Shake the mixture every 2 days but don’t open the lid or stir the ingredients.
3. After 1 month, use a large sieve to strain the liquid. Keep the solids aside as they can be used to make amaro*.
4. Second strain through a fine filter such as a soup stock bag to remove the finer solids.
5. Melt the sugar in a large saucepan until caramelised. Stir frequently to prevent any lumps from forming. The caramel needs to be all liquid. Take care not to let it burn.
6. Once the sugar has reached a deep caramel colour, remove from the heat and leave it to cool for 15 minutes.
7. Slowly and carefully add the strained liquid to the pan while stirring gently. Mix well and then let it cool down completely.
8. Using a large funnel, pour the vermouth into a bottle and store it in the fridge. The vermouth will keep for 2 months before the flavours start to go flat.
- Always use white wine as a base. Red/sweet vermouth gets its colour from the caramelised sugar and not the wine type. Red wine based vermouth can taste like mulled wine.
- When making a dry style of vermouth, use less sugar.
- Use a soup stock bag to fine strain the vermouth in preference to a coffee filter. It’s much faster doesn’t remove some of the colour.
- If the vermouth is not bitter enough, add extra dried orange peel and infuse for 2 weeks.
- If the vermouth is not clear, freeze it until solids form which can then be easily scraped off.
- *Keep the leftover botanicals, add high proof vodka, sea parsley, lemon myrtle and wattle seed and infuse for 1 month to make amaro.
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