Back when winter was finally starting to draw to a close, I had decided not to add on any new silly spring and summertime aesthetic to my arsenal, because between rosés, caftans, vermouths ans stripes I felt like I had more than enough to work with as it was. Both scratch that ever-present itch for the Mediterranean that I get once the temperature heats up but in different ways, and I felt that I had barely explored the possibilities of vermouth especially. Then, back in March when I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one evening, I came across a post from Food and Wine magazine and wouldn’t you know, it was a recipe for making your own rosé vermouth. Immediately bookmarking it, I then went to see if J.Crew happened to have any striped caftans (because why wouldn’t they?) and of course they did, and so I decided that this year would truly become one giant mashup of everything.
Though I filed the recipe away for after the move, I quickly bought all of the more obscure ingredients on Amazon right away so I would have them when I finally had time to make it. Everything was readily available, from the wormwood to the dried bitter orange peel, and at no time did I have to buy anything more than a few ounces of each item. Sourcing the spirits I needed to help fortify the rosé proved a little more difficult because I couldn’t find unaged brandy anywhere, so instead I tried grappa. (I realized after the fact that I could have probably used pisco brandy, but I’ll try that in another batch.)
The process is fairly straightforward, but requires a bit of time and planning to execute it. First, you want to infuse the clear alcohol of your choosing with strawberries; the recipe calls for you to do this in two days, but I used my iSi to do this rapid-infusion style. I kind of want to infuse a little of the grappa with some strawberries the traditional wa6y to see what changes could be noticeable, if any. You then use that to make a syrup with quite a bit of sugar, put that aside, and then infuse some of the rosé with all of the herbs both fresh and dried before adding a cup of ruby port to the saucepan. That, along with the un-fortified wine then gets added to the grappa syrup where it’s brought to a boil and then left to steep for ten minutes before being put to chill in the fridge for a few hours and then strained into bottles.
You get a sizable quantity of vermouth, but because it’s hard to fractionalize the herbs in a meaningful way that’s unfortunately going to be the case regardless of which recipe you make. Mine filled two 1-liter IKEA stopped bottles plus half of a glass jar, and the mixture is good up to four months there in the fridge.
The thing is, it won’t really last that long–I’ve been taking to sipping it as a lovely aperitif while I’m getting dinner together after work with some soda water, and Michael enjoys it paired with some cava (because he’s a fan of putting almost anything with cava). Drinking it straight is OK so long as you have a few ice cubes in there, and there will probably be a time sooner rather than later when I make a round of martinis using this instead of our trusty Dolin.
This isn’t as sweet as, say, Casa Mariol’s Vermut Negre but it’s not as dry as a dry white vermouth; it definitely takes on some interesting herbal notes that I think have mellowed a bit since I first made it. It definitely benefits from being able to sit in the fridge for a day or two, so as we approach Memorial Day weekend consider taking some time this week to make a batch to celebrate the much-needed long weekend.
Homemade Rosé Vermouth
Adapted from Food and Wine magazine
2 1/4 cups unaged French brandy or grappa (you want it to be clear)
1 lb strawberries, sliced
2 3/4 cups sugar
4 small rosemary leaves
7 small sage leaves
2 teaspoons oregano leaves
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon bitter orange peel (available on Amazon)
2 teaspoons wormwood root (available on Amazon)
1/2 teaspoon gentian root (available on Amazon)
One 1 1/2-inch piece of vanilla bean (available on Amazon)
Three 750-ml bottles (9 1/2 cups) rosé, preferably Spanish Garnacha (I did a blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo)
1 cup ruby port
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Optional: iSi Gourmet Whip and two whipped cream chargers
Infuse the grappa: either combine all of the strawberries and grappa into a large glass jar large enough to hold them all and submerge the strawberries, or divide them to infuse them separately for the iSi Whip. For the traditional route, all you have to do is let it sit for two days. For the rapid infusion method, combine half of the liquid and half of the strawberries, charge with one charger, shake, let rest for 30 seconds, and then shake again before resting for another 30 seconds. Carefully vent and pour into a glass and let rest while you do the second half of the grappa and strawberries.
Strain the strawberries out and discard, and then set aside the grappa. In a large nonreactive saucepan (one that will be large enough to hold this and the rosé and the port), combine the sugar and 1/4 cup water over moderately low heat, swirling from time to time until a pale amber caramel forms. Remove the pan from heat and carefully add the grappa, and a syrup will form; set aside.
In a smaller saucepan, combine all of the herbs with the wormwood and gentian root with 3 cups of the rosé and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes before adding the ruby port.
Combine the fortified wine with the rest of the wine into the pan with the grappa syrup, and then grate orange zest over everything. Let stand in the fridge for at least two hours or until cold.
Strain everything well, and then place in bottles–you’ll get about two and a half liters, all told. Will stay good in the fridge for up to four months.