My vermouth consumption has been down a bit lately. Between that, and the volume of vermouth that was required for my aging experiment, I am very well stocked with sweet vermouth right now. However, I was still itching to make something today, so I decided to try an experiment that I have thought about for a long time now, red wine based vermouth.

If you look around you can find claims on the Internet that various commercial vermouths have a red wine base. At this point, while I could easily be wrong, I am not inclined to believe a word of it. Usually, there is a passing reference to some unusual or fancy vermouth (such as Carpano Antica, or Punt e Mes) using red wine. My guess is that this is assumed to be one of the differences between an unusual or fancy vermouth and something more common. For every vermouth that I have seen mentioned as red wine based, I have found a matching contradictory claim.

That said, it's still an interesting concept, and it is definitely done occasionally in other handmade vermouths, so I decide to try it.

Red Wine Based Vermouth: Half Recipe

Cooked Ingredients
  • 375 ml red wine
  • 10 cardamom pods
  • 10 juniper berries
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 star anise
Raw Ingredients
  • 125 ml red wine
  • 175 ml brandy
  • 1.5 oz Oloroso sherry
  • 7/8 oz bitter orange tincture
  • 1/4 oz sweet orange tincture
  • 15 drops wormwood tincture
  • 18 drops gentian tincture
  • 30 drops cinchona tincture
  • 4 oz caramelized sugar


Choosing the Wine

I don't know all that much about wine. My only requirement for a vermouth base is that it is unobtrusive and inexpensive in large quantities (in other words, Bota Box.) I wasn't about to commit to a whole box yet for this experiment, so I picked up a bottle of Mark West Pinot Noir. My reasoning was simple enough. It was on sale, and any of it that doesn't make it into vermouth will still be consumed. If the experiment goes well, then I can switch over to the boxed equivalent. If it goes well, but the wine isn't quite right, I can always try something else.

A Few Changes
  • I ditched the rooibos for this batch. It's mostly there for color, which the wine takes care of here.
  • I also ditched the salt, mostly out of laziness. I didn't feel like measuring out 1/32 tsp.
  • I switched the sherry from Amontillado to Oloroso, because my local liquor store had it in stock for the first time in a long time.
  • Taking a cue from Byrrh, I decided to double the cinchona (or really, I neglected to halve it.)

First Impressions

I tasted this batch next to my standard sweet vermouth and Byrrh. The red wine and extra cinchona definitely create some similarities to the Byrrh, but the useful comparisons end there. They are completely different products.

After a quick comparison of the red and white based vermouths, I like the results. The red is a bit drier and, despite the increased cinchona, tastes slightly less bitter. As always, I will have a few more thoughts once I have made a few cocktails with it, but chances are that I will end up making more of this.

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