MDR Labs take great pleasure in presenting our Sugar Free Sweet Vermouth recipe! Sweet Vermouth (also known as Italian Vermouth in older cocktail books) has a long history and the origin of the word Vermouth is actually a variation on the German Wermut, which translates into wormwood. So it would seem that vermouths and absinthes are cousins!
Of the two types, sweet and dry, sweet came about first, back in 1786, and was meant to be medicinal, with its herb-infused wine. After a time, it became more standardized and entered the world of cocktails.
Regular Sweet Vermouth is actually very easy to make, as it just takes some wine, herbs, and a bit of brandy to fortify it. There are several sources on the internet outlining how to make both sweet and dry versions. Google is definitely a good friend of the budding mixologist!
However, at the MDR Labs, wine is forbidden due to it’s sugar content. This took us a while, but inspiration did eventually strike! The solution was brandy. Brandy has an interesting history and was the old basis for the proof of alcohol. Upon the advent of distillation, shipping companies distilled wine, presumably hoping to reduce volume and shipping fees, and stored the distillate in barrels. The thought was to add water back to reconstitute it back to wine.
This idea was quickly abandoned once it was discovered that brandy is delicious and the rest, as they say, is history.
After some significant research and tinkering, we used the same theories from years ago and reconstituted brandy into wine, added back sweetener, and infused it with herbs.
And thus we present:
Sugar Free Sweet Vermouth
***A word of warning. Like the Sugar Free Triple Sec/Cointreau, this method involves the highly flammable 150 proof Everclear grain alcohol. This method requires no heating, so fire is less of a worry, but be aware of any open flames or sparks around this stuff for your own safety.
Most of the items can be found in any grocery store, however, we had to special order some of them from Starwest Botanicals.
- Peel of half an orange (removing as much zest as possible)
- 1 cinnamon stick (broken in half)
- 4 cardamom pods (gently crushed and not to be confused with cardamon)
- 1/4 star anise
- 1/2 tspn dried lavender
- 1/4 tspn wormwood
- 1/2 tspn dried chamomile (not the tea blend)
- 1/2 cup Splenda
- 1 cup E&J Brandy (recommended since it is a wine-ier brandy)
- 3.5 cups water
- 1/2 cup Everclear 151 (75% grain alcohol) (plus a little more later)
- 8.5 tspn Red Wine Vinegar
Take your orange rind and herbs and place in a sealable glass container and add the Everclear. Make sure that all the contents are submerged. Place in a dark location at room temperature for 24 hours, gently swirling every few hours.
Once the herbs are done steeping, pour contents into cheesecloth over a bowl and squeeze as much herb-infused alcohol out as possible. Measure the alcohol volume. If it is less than the starting volume of half a cup (which is should be due to absorption of the herbs), add back enough volume to bring it back to half a cup.
There may still be some particulate leftover after the cheesecloth step. It is optional, but since there is potentially a lot of particulate, if you want greater clarity in your vermouth, it is recommended that you start filtering with a standard strainer, then restrain the herb-infused alcohol through a coffee filter. We just placed a large mouthed funnel in the final collection bottle and placed a coffee filter in it and allowed it to drip through.
Once the herb-infused alcohol is in a bottle that can hold one liter of volume, add the water, Splenda, brandy, and the vinegar.
Now you’ve got Sugar Free Sweet Vermouth! The real insight here is the bit of acid that the vinegar adds. Without it, it tastes a whole lot less like vermouth. We did several side-by-side taste tests and, while many sweet vermouths vary, the Sugar Free Sweet Vermouth measured up to the brand name versions!