Add a personalized twist to your favourite cocktails with this aromatized, fortified wine
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.
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.
The Alchemist tasting panel samples the fortified, aromatized elixir
Vermouth is not just an essential ingredient in many cocktails, it is already a cocktail, a wine fortified with spirits and flavoured with herbs, spices and other botanicals. And it’s enjoying a major comeback right now.
Five of Vancouver’s top bartenders gathered on a rainy afternoon at Tableau Bar Bistro to taste this beguiling product: Sabrine Dhaliwal, bar manager of Juke Fried Chicken and Beetbox; Adam Domet, bar manager at Pourhouse; J-S Dupuis, beverage director of Wentworth Hospitality; Robyn Gray of Elisa Steakhouse; and Katie Ingram, bar manager at Elisa Steakhouse.
They all love vermouth. “It’s rich in flavour and lower in alcohol,” Ingram said. “And we’re all flavour junkies. So we get that fix of citrus and bitterness and everything you’re looking for.” Besides, with prices as low as $12 for a litre bottle, vermouth is also a complete bargain.
The panel tasted 16 local and international vermouths. Here’s what they had to say.
More than 200 years ago, wine drinkers in Turin and Marseille started adding bittering and flavouring botanicals to wine fortified with spirit, to make an entirely new drink. The styles they created—a sweeter, reddish-brown style in Italy and a drier white-wine version in France—are iconic today, and collectively known as vermouth, a term that comes from the root word for wormwood, which is synonymous in many languages with “bitter.”
Now enjoying a renaissance thanks to cocktail mixology and the Spanish-driven trend for sipping them solo or as a spritz, vermouths should have a place on your back bar. (Actually, in your fridge, where a red vermouth will stay fresh for several months, and white vermouth for several weeks after opening.) Here are three new and three favourite B.C. bottlings to try.
Recipe by Gianluigi Bosco, head bartender at MARKET at the Shangri-la Hotel in Vancouver. Lost Horizon, of course, was the book and movie that introduced the world to the magical land of Shangri-la.
• 1.5 oz O5 Time Traveller tea-infused Sons of Vancouver vodka (see note)
• 1 oz semi-clarified fresh orange juice (see note)
• 0.5 oz Citrus Wine (recipe below)
• 0.5 oz Kopan Masala Syrup (recipe below)
• 5 dashes citric acid (available from gourmet shops)
• 1 egg white
• Angostura bitters, for garnish