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Monday, February 20, 2012

The Bitter End

"The responsible consumer must also be in some way a producer." So says Wendell Berry, and so continues our effort at home to tip the scales toward production. While the veggie seeds are in their pots and the sauerkraut ripens in the garage, why not make some booze?! (Or at least flavor it.)

Hopping on the mustachioed and be-flannelled mixology bandwagon, we thought we would have a go at vermouth. We started with a leftover inexpensive wine, took a portion of it and heated it to a simmer in order to promote the oxidative flavors typical of vermouth. We returned that heated wine to the remainder and poured it over an assortment of bitter aromatics - wormwood (from which vermouth takes its name), gentian, quassia, and mugwort - and a mix of spices and herbs. At this point we caramelized some sugar and added it to the whole mix for a sweet vermouth. After some solid steep time we strained out the aromatics and added a shot or two of brandy to the wine to bring it up to around 17 degrees alcohol.

As it turned out we went a bit heavy on the bitter flavors, a mistake easily avoided by our next method: making single-flavor infusions of herbs, spices, barks, and roots in high-proof alcohol, and then taking minute amounts of those strong infusions and making a mix of house bitters.

The next step, of course, is to grow the grapes and make the wine, and to forage or grow the aromatics. But, in the immortal words of Bob Wiley: baby steps.

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