I’ve been drinking my way slowly through Spain and one of it’s best kept secrets is drinking Vermut Rojo or Negro with olives (marinated in anchovy) and a slice of orange. It’s a perfect drink for summer on ice, I’m sitting in the Plaza right now toasting you all:) They even have an activity here called “doing vermut” (“fer vermut”)which just means your going out with your friends during siesta to sit in the sun, chat and have a nice civilized drink. Each bar has it’s own Vermut de casa in Barcelona (house Vermouth), so it’s a great day out to wander through and taste. Really good for you too, ha. Since there are only 3 brands of vermouth in our liquor stores in BC (Italian and French), boring! Why not make your own, it’s easy, pretend you’re in Spain!
Learning how to make vermouth…
- 12 Sterilized jam jars (small) for each herb
- 1 sterlized Large jar for your final vermut
- Candy thermometer (optional)
Ingredients for 700 ml vermouth
1 bottle white wine (can be an oxidized wine, as that was what vermut was for originally, saving older wine)
1 750ml bottle grappa (cheap) or vodka
2 tsp Wormwood traditionally (for bitterness) or hops
1 tsp Gentian Root
1 tsp Juniper berries
1/2 tsp Angelica Root
1/2 tsp Camomile flowers
2 tsp Vanilla Bean
3 tsp Orange Peel
1/2 tsp Quinine
1/2 tsp Rosemary
1/2 tsp Sage
1/2 tsp Sweet Basil
1/2 tsp Thyme
Optional fun for foragers: Fir tips, birch leaves, licorice fern root, flowering currant blossoms, rose petals, anything goes from aromatic roots, flowers, herbs. Have fun experimenting with your own herb mix.
The Base: You could use vodka, but real vermouth (vermut is the Catalan word) is brandy (wine spirits). I would use grappa since it’s made from grapes like brandy – 750 ml.
Now you’re going to soak each herb in grappa and leave them to macerate separate from one another. You’ll need a small jar for each herb/grappa mixture, to be filled with roughly one third of an herb to two thirds vodka. Add roughly a handful of each herb, then the grappa, screw on the lid and leave to macerate at room temperature in a dark place for 2 weeks.
Making the caramel:
Heat 200g caster sugar and 4 tbsp of water in a pan over a high heat. Don’t stir, but swirl the caramel around to stop it burning. We recommend taking the caramel to a dark amber colour for extra depth and complexity. Heating it to somewhere between 185C and 188C will do the trick, use a candy thermometer to check the temp if you have one. Carefully pour a thin layer on to a silicone mat or parchment paper. Once it’s solid, break up into shards.
To make the vermouth
Add 125ml of wine to a pan and place on a low heat. Add the caramel shards and stir until totally dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, and then combine with the remaining wine. Next, strain each tea and return the liquid to its original jar. Now you’re going to decide on the flavour of your final vermut. This is the fun part: Measure out small amounts of each herb liquor mix (to your taste) and add to the caramel/wine mixture. Use small amounts to start, maybe a teaspoon of each and taste each one as you add them, to get a sense of the different herbs.
Store in a sterilized bottle in the fridge and drink within a couple of months. We don’t have olives stuffed with anchovies in Vancouver so… Make sure you get some good olives and add some anchovy paste to the jar, shake it up and leave it in the fridge overnight, then serve these with your vermut, plus a slice of orange.
Enjoy! Salud from Barcelona,