DIY vermouth

Add a personalized twist to your favourite cocktails with this aromatized, fortified wine

For this white vermouth, you’ll need botanicals such as grapefruit peel, bay leaves, dried apples, chamomile and mint tea, which mimic the earthy flavours of the wormwood that gave vermouth its name. Matthew Benevoli photo

Let’s talk about the often-misunderstood aperitif vermouth. What is it? Where does it come from?

Vermouth is fortified wine with herbs, roots, spices and sometimes sugar added. There are a handful of different styles to choose from: the most common offerings are sweet red, traditionally from Italy; and dry white wormwood-infused from France. The word vermouth is the French pronunciation for “wermut,” which is German for wormwood, the mystical herb that gives absinthe its reputation and provides the distinctive dry, bitter note found in vermouth.

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Dangerous drinks

10 things not to do at home—or anywhere, according to CocktailSafe’s Camper English

Writer Camper English, the San-Francisco-based founder of Alcademics, created cocktailsafe.org when he saw the risky techniques being used by some bartenders. Bastian Bochinski photo

The Roof is on Fire! That was the name of a dangerous-drinks seminar that San Francisco writer Camper English (of alcademics.com fame) and Bittermens co-founder Avery Glasser gave in 2016 at Tales of the Cocktail. Their warnings on potentially dangerous bartending ingredients, equipment and techniques were so eye-opening, English later nabbed a grant to develop cocktailsafe.org, a geekily helpful website packed with deeply researched information and resources.

“Bartenders on Facebook were chatting a lot about potentially dangerous drinks … and I thought it would be useful to put all this information, and a lot more, in one place as a reference to bartenders everywhere,” he says.

Here are his top 10 red flags for home mixologists—and pros, too.

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The Alchemist Fall/Winter 2020

Getty images photo

Have you been spending a lot more time at home lately? Funny, us, too! That’s why, in this issue of The Alchemist, we look at ways to shake things up in our home bars.

Charlene Rooke rounds up the tools you need—which also happen to make great holiday gifts—and talks to cocktail legend Camper English, founder of cocktailsafe.org, about the dangerous things you really shouldn’t be doing at home or anywhere. We offer the five essential classic cocktail recipes everyone should know, and our Tasting Panel shares the bottles they stock at home. And we introduce our new Home Bar columnist, Matthew Benevoli, who shows us how to make homemade vermouth.

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Better with bitters

Add your own unique flavour to cocktails with homemade bitters. Here’s how

A variety of spices, herbs and other botanicals give bitters their intense flavour. Dan Toulgoet photo

Making your own bitters at home is a lot easier than you may think. However, we need to understand a few things first. Cocktails, by definition, are made up of four essential ingredients: spirits, sugar, water and bitters. Spirits are self-explanatory. The sugar and water elements can be exactly that or they can take on other forms, such as syrups and juices. Bitters are much more complex, though. Bartenders use bitters to bridge the flavours of spirits, sugar and water so they come together. The key to selecting the right bitter is to use one that complements the other three components in the cocktail.

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Punch it up with oleo saccharum

This ancient ingredient adds zest to your party drinks

Before you start, assemble your ingredients. Dan Toulgoet photo

Holiday entertaining is right around the corner and having a couple of easy, bold and delicious punch recipes on hand will really help set any party off on the right foot. It all starts with oleo saccharum.

Now, you might be wondering: What the heck is oleo saccharum? It is the Latin term for “oil sugar,” an ingredient that will change your home bartending.

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Spirit Free Gin & Tonic

Justin Taylor’s Spirit-Free G&T uses a homemade gin syrup. Dan Toulgoet photo

This zero-proof G&T will ensure all your friends can enjoy summer’s quintessential cocktail.

• 1 oz. spirit-free gin syrup (recipe below)
• 0.75 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
• 5 oz tonic water

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