Vermouth is a drink derived from wine, flavored with spices, wild fruits and herbs. Depending on where it comes from, vermouth can vary a lot and, for example, in Spain this drink is usually slightly bitter and sweet. Vermouth is a drink that has become very popular, as it is perfect for an aperitif, since it does not have gas like beer and it has less alcohol than gin and tonic and other mixed drinks.
Although it is consumed all over the world, the history of vermouth has its origins in Italy, during the 18th century, when Antonio Benedetto Carpano, a master winemaker from Turin, created a new drink in his distillery with a base of wine Moscatel and a combination of spices and fruits. As the main ingredient, he used wormwood and the recipe traveled with Benedetto from a monastery in Valsesia, in the Italian Piedmont. He gave the drink a German name: Wermut, which in Spanish means the great absentee.
Among the ingredients of that ancestral recipe that the monks gave to Benedetto, were a series of plants, fruits and medicinal herbs typical of the area such as chamomile flowers, saffron, cloves, orange peel, cardamom, nutmeg and vanilla. Benedetto himself added to the mix some plants such as bellflower, gentian, angelica root or ginger.
In this way, vermouth was born and with it, one of its main characteristics: no two recipes are the same. And it is that vermouth is very grateful in terms of ingredients and a wide range of spices, fruits or roots can be added. Even the alcoholic base can vary, since it can be made with white, red and even rosé wine.
For this reason, the best homemade vermouth can vary greatly from one place to another. Its flavor will not depend only on the mixture of spices and fruits, but also on the wine used to make it, so a white vermouth will be finer and sweeter, while the red one will be more bitter, with the more vivid flavor of wormwood.
The ingredients for homemade vermouth
Before moving on to the ingredients and the preparation of the vermouth, it is worth explaining some basic things. First of all, to make vermouth you need to have a good mix of spices and, above all, you have to be very careful with the proportions, since some herbs such as wormwood or gentian can leave a very bitter taste. The best homemade vermouths (you can find some purchase options here) always have a good botanical combination that gives them a slightly bitter touch, but that is fresh and aromatic.
As for the wine, it will not be necessary for you to choose the best wine in your house. It is enough that it is a good wine, since the final flavor will be defined by the botanical mixture. Of course, the drier the wine, the drier the vermouth will also be, so it is advisable to choose a slightly sweet wine. Also, don’t forget that red wine makes stronger vermouths than white, which is sweeter.
You will also need a mortar in which to crush the mixture or a container in which to mix the herbs if you have bought them crushed, a filter and a glass bottle, if possible it has a wide mouth.
Now, let’s see what are the ingredients for a traditional homemade vermouth:
– 1 liter of white or red wine (depending on your tastes).
– Tablespoon and a half of powdered or ground wormwood.
– 2 cloves.
– 3 cinnamon sticks.
– 2 sage leaves.
– Dried orange or lemon peel.
– Half a tablespoon of gentian.
– A tablespoon of chamomile leaves.
– 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Remember that you can vary the ingredients a little. For example, you can add pennyroyal, mint or spearmint leaves if you are looking for a fresher flavor. You can also add vanilla or a little apple for a sweeter flavor. In the end it depends on your taste, but do not forget to always respect the proportions.
How to make homemade vermouth
The first step is to pour the wine you have chosen into a large container (remember that it can be white or red). Once inside, add half of the spices and herbs, along with the orange or lemon peel. Cover the container well so that air does not enter and leave it in a dry place without light for at least three days.
Once those three days have passed, pass the entire contents of the container through a strainer. It has to be a very fine strainer, since all traces of herbs and spices must be removed, leaving the liquid clean. If necessary, filter and strain the liquid as many times as necessary until it is clean.
Once clean, add the sugar and the rest of the spices of the mixture. Some experts also advise adding a little brandy or pomace to the mix to provide a botanical alcohol that slightly modifies the flavors, although this is up to you. Mix and stir well so that the sugar dissolves and let the liquid rest for fifteen days. Again, you should leave it in a dark and dry place, it can be a pantry or a closet.
Once the fifteen days have passed, you have to strain or filter the mixture again so that it is completely clean. Remember that you must remove any botanical remains or, otherwise, it could damage the flavor of the vermouth. To make sure it’s completely clean, it’s best to use cloth or coffee filters and let it filter slowly to remove any remaining impurities.
When it is completely clean, pour the liquid into a glass bottle and voila, you have your homemade vermouth ready to enjoy.