Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cocktails: Making our own grape-free Vermouth

I have a jar collection. It's a habit that borders on hoarding, in the sense that I compulsively save them because it seems a shame to get rid of something so useful, except that I actually use and cycle through my jars doing various projects.

This is one of those projects.

Since I'm allergic to grapes, we simply omit vermouth from any cocktails that call for them. Of course, it means the cocktails are not quite right. I got a wild idea one day to figure out what it would take to make our own, and discovered... it's actually really easy. It just required a lot of small jars. Which I happened to have on hand.

A selection of vodkas steeping in assorted jars. Here: Pepper, Coffee, Orange, Cardamom.
There's plenty of recipes online, but it boils down to:

  1. Steep some flavorful things in a spirit.
  2. Carefully add the flavored spirits into some sort of dry wine, tasting as you go, until you get a flavor you like; the final result seems to be a goal of about 50/50 wine and vodka. 

Of course, it's more complicated. For dark drinks, like Manhattans, apparently you're supposed to use a dark vermouth, something I didn't even know existed. This involves steeping your flavorings in a dark spirit, such as a rum or a brandy, adding it to the wine, and adding a caramel syrup--ending up, one presumes, with a rather sweet vermouth. But something like a Martini calls for a light, comparatively-dry vermouth even if it's a sweet-light, which would be steeping the flavorings in vodka, adding to the dry white wine, and omitting the caramel syrup. Again, this is a layperson's understanding from the moderate amount of research, please do feel free to correct me.

We're going to do a light dry and a dark sweet vermouth, but still using vodka for both. The wine, due to my grape allergy, is mead. Most fruit wines would be still too sweet for the dry vermouth, but mead is available in quite dry varieties. Sake would work too, but Mr. Moon isn't terribly fond of sake, and I didn't think it would be polite to start with that right away. Though I might make a small batch with it just to experience the difference. As for dark & sweet vs. light & dry, I have a mead that's quite a bit dryer than I usually drink it for the light vermouth, and a nice rich, syrupy, deep, dark mead for the dark vermouth.

A selection of vodkas steeping in assorted jars. Here: Clove, turmeric, rosemary, hibiscus, juniper, vanilla.
I didn't follow any particular recipe. With the understanding that the end result should be somewhat medicinal in flavor, I just picked a bunch of herbs and spices and teas I had around, and went to town. I set Mr. Moon on the task of taste-testing the vermouths they serve at his work (they have 3 or 4, and at least he'll be familiar with the kind of flavor profile we're attempting to achieve). I'm not even going to remotely imply I had this much vodka just sitting around, but I didn't want to go on a huge quest for ingredients. After all, gentian root and wormwood were especially difficult, and I never did find any.

A selection of vodkas steeping in assorted jars. Here: Dill, cinnamon, chamomile, mint, oregano
In the end, I have 19 vodkas steeping with flavorings:




  • Orange
  • Coffee
  • Ginger
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Coriander
  • Cardamom
  • Pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Juniper
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Oregano
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile
  • Hibiscus
A selection of vodkas steeping in assorted jars. Here: lavender, basil, coriander, ginger.

As you can see, some jars are bigger than others. Pepper vodka is amazing for screwdrivers, and bloody marys of course. Lavender makes a fantastic lemonade, and I imagine the ginger will go far in all sorts of mixers. The turmeric I don't expect to have much use for beyond this project, and it's such a strong flavor I only made a little bit.

And I want to note: this stuff doesn't have to be Pinterest Pretty. I have mismatched jars with reused lids, and I'm not ashamed that my pictures won't win any awards or end up in a magazine. This stuff is fun, and I'm going to share it regardless. 

I am thinking the dry light vermouth is going to be more floral and herbal, where the sweet dark vermouth will be more spicy and rich but with a lot of herbal tones as well. Here's wishing us luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment

There was an error in this gadget