Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Northeastern botanicals, bottled

This month's project is one that could last a lifetime, and travel wherever we go.

I like vermouth. It is mild enough to drink on its own, and very good to mix into cocktails. I heard that Kobus van der Merwe was tinkering with local flavours in South Africa to create a Strandveld vermouth, and that made me think. And read. A lot. Creating commercial vermouth sounds fascinating. A blend of white wines, about 20 herbs and spices, fortifying with spirit infusions, which are then distilled again, infusing the white wine itself, then aging the mixture in barrels that are left in the sun for a year.


Over the last several years I have played with local flavours, infusing them simply, and cooking, sometimes not so simply; and some indigenes stand out: spicebush, bayberry, sumac, sweetfern. Then there is mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) - not local, but abundant. And in France it is not vermouth unless it includes Artemisia. By law.

I started steeping, and cooking and infusing. Even the terrace contributed herbs.

The result is pink, tinted by the raspberry-spirit infusion, the deep yellow of the spicebush and the green of mugwort and bayberry. And maybe the pink peppercorns played  a part. Since I don't have a still, I could not clear the liquid via a second distillation. Pink it will remain.

I find it appealing. The wildcard is the spicebush, which needs to be kept in check, but the mugwort is an excellent base note. Now that I have an acceptable version there will be many experiments.

A taste of place.


                        Book a Botanical Summer Walk


  1. Very interesting. Looking forward to buying your product online! [Its probably doable but there are a lot of hoops to jump through]

  2. Dear Mary! I am amazed because of the glass with the vermouth you show here! The pattern is the exact same we have on old wine glasses that are probably from the time around 1900. Are the glasses you have old? They certainly have an old traditional pattern! Great!

    1. The glass is probably late 19th century, possibly Woodstock (the first commercial glass made in South Africa) :-)

  3. I love the color! Raspberries lend their color so easily. I'm looking forward to reading more about your experiments. You should come up here, there is a ton of mugwort.

    Last year I was on an amaro-making spree, similar but no cooking. You've just reminded me to start up again!

  4. I loved reading about how vermouth is made and the amazing botanical contributions!


Comments on posts older than 48 hours are moderated (for spam control) . Yours will be seen! Unless you are a troll. Serial trollers are banned.