One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough. – James Thurber
|The finished product: Vermouth No. 5
I don’t drink martinis but I do have a bottle each of white and red vermouth. I guess I’m just one to be prepared…
I’m afraid I’m now a little over-prepared, because I just made a full 800 ml of homemade white vermouth. Homemade you say? Why yes – and it was very easy.
Essentially vermouth is fortified wine, that is wine to which liquor (usually brandy or cognac) has been added. From there herbs and spices are mixed with the wine and you allow it to steep. That’s literally how difficult it is. Mix, mingle, wait and enjoy.
Common herbs and spices used in vermouth can include cloves, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, citrus peel, coriander, sage, basil, thyme, chamomile, quinine, juniper berries and hops. Other herbs like gentian, mugwort and wormwood are used for a little bitterness, which vermouth needs.
As you can imagine, it’s quite easy to make a vermouth that is unique to you. In reality you can throw anything you like into a vermouth to make your own custom blend. Just let your imagination run free.
|After steeping for four weeks.
The name "vermouth" comes from wermut (German for wormwood) that has been used as an ingredient in vermouth there since the 1500s. Around the same time it began to be made in Italy as well. By the mid-1600s, the drink, now called vermouth, was popular in England. The name is most likely a bastardization of the German name.
Fortified wine using herbs and roots is thought to have started in ancient Greece around 400 BC. The probable reason was to make a “medicinal” drink while at the same time masking the flavour of wine that was past its “best by” date.
Today there are three categories of vermouth: Southern French (usually dry and white), Savoie (also from France) and Italian (usually red and sweet) such as Martini Rossi and Cinzano. It is not always the case though as some whites are sweet and some reds are dry. It all depends on what you add to the mix.
My white vermouth is more flavourful than the white Noilly-Pratt and a slight golden colour from the herbs and peel, but I don’t mind in the least. All of my vermouth ends up in the cooking pot where the herb notes are needed. The flavour is a little more citrusy than Noilly-Pratt and a little less "medicinal." It's pretty good actually... I may even try a martini. (Remember – potato vodka has less "after burn"...)
Why the name Vermouth No.5? It has nothing to do with the esteemed Chanel parfum. My recipe is a combination of ingredients from what I thought would be the best of four different recipes – hence the “No. 5.” Try it. You may just be inspired to never buy vermouth again.
|Much of the colour leeched out of the orange peel during
steeping. I'm assuming that is where the golden colour originated.
Vermouth No. 5
Time: 6 weeks | Yield: 800 ml
750 ml Pinot Grigio
1/2 cup Cognac
1/2 tsp dried wormwood (or French tarragon)
1/2 tsp angelica root
2 tbsp green tea
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp sage
4 juniper berries
4 green cardamon pods
1 whole nutmeg
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2" vanilla bean
peel of 1 orange
Combine all ingredients in a large jar. Cover and let age for one month.
Strain and bottle, then let age for a further 2 weeks before use.
|2 x 375 ml, plus enough to "try it"...
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