I love vermouth. I like a vodka martini, a regular one and more than both of those things I love the smell of dry white vermouth hitting the risotto pan and evaporating straight into my nostrils.
In recent years the price of Noilly Prat has forced me into the arms of supermarket own-brand vermouths, which are generally fine, but the other day I got wondering how hard it could be to make your own. I had a vague idea vermouth was made by putting wine in a barrel with herbs and spices and leaving it to bake in the Mediterranean sun for months. Not having access to the sun, I did some quick research and found a heap of recipes for making your own vermouth. I even discovered that vermouth is actually named after one of its ingredients, wormwood, the same bitter herb used to make absinthe. And absinthe, as we know, makes the heart grow fonder.
There seem to be two main methods for rolling your own vermouth: quick and hot and slow and cold. The former involves heating the wine with your botanicals (herbs and spices) and then mixing the cooled liquid with some form of caramel and possibly a stronger alcohol. The latter method, slow and cold, involves steeping your botanicals for up to two weeks in a spirit (vodka or eau de vie) and then mixing with the wine. I’m going for slow and cold because that’s the kind of mood I’m in.
I don’t have and am not about to acquire any wormwood – I’ll add a dash of absinthe if I think it’s not bitter enough – but I did have a few herbs & spices lying around. I half-filled a jam jar with vodka and added:
- 1 clove
- a tiny sliver of fresh ginger
- 3 petals of star anise
- a sliver of lemon peel
- a few coriander seeds
- a fresh sage leaf from my garden
- a small amount of dried thyme
- a few juniper berries (who knew gin was available in fruit form?)
- the seeds of 1 cardamom pod
- about 1cm of a vanilla pod
- about a dozen rosemary leaves
- a sliver of nutmeg
The amazing thing is that after just an hour this already smells like vermouth!
I’ll report back in 2 weeks when I mix this up with some dry white wine and possibly that absinthe.