This is a general recipe for crafting vermouth in a home kitchen. It’s flexible to the volume of vermouth you would like to make and to the ingredients you have at hand or would like to use. For more vermouth commentary on this site, click here.
- 2-10 bottles of wine
White or red; I recommend an acidic and dry wine as a solid base for all your other flavors. There is no need to get expensive wine (boxed is great here) but it should be freshly opened and taste good – that is to say, turning bad or spoiled wine into vermouth will not make it taste good.
- A neutral spirit
Brandy or applejack is my go-to but you could use vodka or anything you have on hand. Avoid gin or other strongly flavored spirits if possible.
See note below “Advice for Choosing Botanicals”
or any other sweetener: molasses, agave, simple syrup, sugar cubes, hard candy, etc
- Tincture each of your herbs / botanicals / flavorings in a neutral spirit. This is like steeping tea: put each botanical in a mason jar or similar and cover with the spirit. Let steep for at least three days in a cool, dark place. The longer these botanicals steep, the deeper the flavor!
- After you’ve let the tinctures steep, strain them through a coffee filter or very fine cheesecloth; discard the solids. Keep each tincture separate. You will probably have extra of at least some of the tinctures. You can use these as in cocktails, shots, or future vermouths. Store in a cool, dark place and they should keep for an incredibly long time.
- Pour your wine into a vessel large enough to hold all of your ingredients.
- Optional but highly recommended: add sweetness. If your wine base is already sweet or you can’t stand the taste of sweetness, skip this step. Combine 1 part sweetener (anywhere from 1 tablespoon to two cups depending on how much vermouth you’re making and how sweet you want it) with 1 part wine. Depending on your sweetener (i.e. honey, molasses, hard candy) it might be easiest to heat up the wine on the stove to ensure it combines fully. Mix this sweetened wine back into the rest of the wine.
- Add each tincture a bit at a time, working slowly and tasting as you go. Keep stirring because the honey, wine, and tinctures will separate by density. Add more of whichever flavor you want until you get to the taste (and proof) you are happy with.
- Store your vermouth in an airtight glass container in the fridge. Its shelf life will be somewhere between that of the opened wine and the spirit you used (higher proof and sweeter vermouth will last longer). Serve chilled straight or on the rocks in a fancy glass as an aperitif, or mix into a Vermouth Spritz, Manhattan, or a Martini.
Advice for Choosing Botanicals
Vermouth makers typically strive for a balance of flavors. Here are suggestions for a variety of flavors to let you know what is typical and spark some ideas, but don’t let this list hem you in. Most commercial vermouths include flavors of nearly each type (sometimes with more than 30 botanicals) but you can choose as many or as few botanicals as you’d like.
Wormwood is the traditional bitterant, and must be included in European vermouths to meet legal definitions, though many American vermouths don’t include wormwood. You could use astringent tea or coffee grounds, or anything else that would impart a bitter flavor.
This can be from actual flowers you find or grow (check with the internet or Poison Control for edibility / toxicity) or from a floral tea like chamomile or hibiscus.
You can use any citrus peel, fresh or dried, or expand your citric horizons to consider lemon verbena or lemon extract.
Any baking spices (preferably whole) like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, or go savory with cumin, coriander, or pepper.
This can be any fresh or dried herb, or a grassy kind of tea.
This is a traditional flavor in vermouth, though admittedly potent and polarizing, so feel free to omit. Anise flavor can be wrung from star anise, fennel bulbs or stalks, fennel seed, caraway, tarragon, licorice, etc.
- Don’t stop there! You could also do dried fruit, or black beans, or really anything that you think will impart a flavor you want.