In my household, the addition of flavoursome herbs to wine started when we were left with a glut of average rosé after a party. I stuck a big sprig of rosemary in a bottle of wine and left it in the fridge for three days, where it wrought a massive improvement. Bitter yes, but fragrant, complex – and that was from just one common or garden herb. It became a useful if not perfect addition to our home cocktails.
Then one summer’s day in Islay, we set ourselves the challenge of making a scratch vermouth, starting with a bottle of white wine, decanting it into a larger empty bottle, and adding suitably interesting plants with which we crossed paths in the course of a day’s drive around Islay – our “Backseat Vermouth v1”.
Of course Mugwort went in, and a few super-bitter cones of Bog Myrtle, some wild carrot florets, pineapple weed, nettle, yarrow, floral tannic bramble leaves. We left everything in the bottle to infuse for a couple of days, then filtered it out, added a little strong neutral alcohol, a little syrup (made from the naturally sweet root of comfrey which we figured we may as well use as we had it already collected), and started having fun with it. It wasn’t perhaps some crowning masterpiece you would want to bring to market, but as important as the results was the process we went through to get them. It memorably captured the classical unities of time, place, and person. I’d definitely do it again – maybe making a forest vermouth, or an Autumn vermouth, or a holiday-in-Corsica vermouth (sigh)…
If there is Artemisia to be had where you are, there’s nothing to stop you from going wild.
Mark Williams excellent article and instructions on making foraged vermouth >
Read more from Dolin > or Blackdown >
Vermouth 101 >
Sherry Makers getting in on the action >
Read about Andy Hamilton’s pilgrimage to one of the great Italian makers >
More about mugwort >