Homemade Cherry Rosé Vermouth

Finished Product2
Finished Product2

Here is a test on taste:  throw a summer BYOB party and count how many bottles of rosé show up.  Odds are it is a lot. The pink potable is now beyond fad and in

full craze mode

.  Each year rosé wines (called “rosado” in Portugal and Spain, “rosato” in Italy) become more popular, leaving their place in the sun as a summer sipper and moving straight to dinner, often paired with food. So what do you do with all of the rosé left over from the party?  The answer is easy. Transform some of it into vermouth!

Vermouth is a long misunderstood drink.  From the category of fortified wines (Ports, Sherries, etc.), it is mostly used in the U.S. as something to mix in a cocktail like a Manhattan or Negroni (sweet vermouth) or something that used to be put in a martini (dry vermouth) back in the days when it was only made with gin. But in Europe, it is often drunk on its own as an aperitif or mixed with a bitter digestif like Campari such as in an Americano. And for centuries it was appreciated for its medicinal qualities. Why shouldn’t you be healthy too?

Rose'
Rose'

Sweet and dry vermouths are often made with white wine, but rosé makes an excellent substitute and offers a middle choice between sweet and dry vermouth in terms of taste. The sour, grapefruit-like profile of most rosé wine blends well with the bitterness of the herbs in vermouth and the sugar added to balance the flavors.

Most of the ingredients needed to transform the wine are right in front of you, and few of them are mandatory.  Feel free to play with the flavors until you find something that fits your palate. When you have it, drink your vermouth as an aperitif chilled neat or with ice, or part of a cocktail with a sweet bourbon or, even better, a spicy rye whiskey.

What you will need:

Spices
Spices

Buy fresh fruit at your farmers market, preferably something sour, like cherries. Gently break the cherries with the side of a knife, and let them sit in un-aged brandy for two days. Strain the fruit out and set aside. (Save the cherries for cocktail garnishes.)  Pour the bottle of rosé into a sauce pan on low heat.  To it add fresh herbs like rosemary, fennel and tarragon and spices like cinnamon, allspice, anise and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil.  Stir in the sugar and remove the sauce pan from the heat and cover. Let the mixture sit for an hour.  Add the brandy infused with fruit to the saucepan and strain to remove the herbs and spices.  Bottle the vermouth and let it sit for at least a week. Drink it! Here’s a simple recipe:

Cherry Rosé Vermouth

Rosé Wine 750 ml

Cherries 4 oz.

Un-aged Brandy 6 oz.

Grated Lemon Peel 1 tsp.

Wormwood
Wormwood

Aniseed 1 tsp.

Fennel ½ tsp.

Rosemary ½ tsp.

Tarragon ½ tsp.

Cinnamon 2 sticks

Vanilla Bean 1

Sugar ¼ c.

Herbs and Fruit
Herbs and Fruit

In terms of ingredients, go with what you got. In place of cherries feel free to use strawberries, sour plums, apricots or what have you. Instead of lemon zest, try grapefruit or sour orange. If you do not have brandy, you may use vodka or grappa. The herbs and spices are interchangeable too. Try oregano, sage, star anise, ginger, lavender (very small quantity), summer savory, coriander, cardamom or most anything else.  If you find the roses in your yard are starting to wither, grab a handful of petals before they fall and throw them in the mix. The fresher the ingredients, the stronger the flavors will be. True vermouth has the herb wormwood in it. If you have it, add 1 tablespoon to the above recipe.

The finished product should be slightly sour, bitter, sweet and lightly herbal with hints of spice.  It should maintain the overwhelming character of the rosé - acidic with strong notes of grapefruit or hard peaches - but there should also be an underlying sweet herbal presence like wafts of rosemary and anise from a roast braising in the oven. The added sugar allows for a smooth mouth feel, barely more viscous than the base wine.  A sharp, spicy note from the cinnamon finishes the sip.  If cherries or another fruit with pits is used, hints of almond will linger throughout the taste and marry very well with the vanilla bean.  A balanced drink, it should play well with mixers or even pair with various foods ranging from a cheese plate to fish, chicken or pork.