Homemade Sweet Vermouth


Photo by Michael Piazza / Styled by Emmet Kelty

Many of these ingredients may be new to you, but if you’re a vermouth lover, seek them out and try your hand at a homemade version that’s light years beyond even the most expensive imported brands. Try Christina’s in Cambridge or Penzey’s in Arlington for the elderberries, cinchona bark, and dried bitter orange peel, while the Averna and Campari can be found at most good liquor stores. You’ll also need a digital kitchen scale to measure in grams.

2 bottles bold red wine (like Côtes du Rhône)
500 milliliters ruby port
250 milliliters amaro (like Averna)
150 milliliters Campari
40 raisins
3 grams dried elderberries
2.75 grams cinchona bark
4 grams cinnamon bark (from a cinnamon stick)
1.5 grams whole cloves
3 grams dried bitter orange peel
2 grams vanilla bean
Zest of ¼ an orange
200 grams sugar
200 milliliters brandy

Place raisins, elderberries and spices (including bitter orange peel, but not orange zest) into bottle with the Averna and Campari. Let stand, shaking once in a while, for three to five days.

Caramelize sugar gently in large pot. Remove from heat and add (in this order) brandy, wine, port, and raisin-spice-amaro mixture. Stir vigorously until cooled to room temperature.

Let sit in refrigerator overnight, then strain through a very fine sieve or a tea strainer into fresh bottles.