Tag: COCKTAIL

ENGLISH VERMOUTH

Gin tonic and vermouthLast year I transformed a few bottles of my strawberry wine into vermouths making three differing tastes that were used in various cocktails and gin & tonics over the summer months. They were all nice but the more floral version was generally the best, though the blackberry gin paired better with the more spiced version. It was all based upon a lot of reading and not a massive amount of understanding. Pairing tastes together and creating balance is very difficult to do writing it as an abstract recipe. Conversely throwing ingredients into a pot and creating it organically is nerve racking as too much cinnamon or wormwood can obliterate all the other ingredients and hard work that has just occurred. Which ever method is used it will be a steep learning curve with ideas that outmatch your ability. Great fun and maybe with time I can get towards my goal of a vermouth that can be drunk not as cocktail addition but aperitif on its own. Maybe 400 years and I’ll have it all cracked.

CLICK HERE FOR THE EARLIER VERMOUTH IDEAS

I may well return to a strawberry vermouth in the future but the idea of an English vermouth really intrigued me as foraging for ingredients has become one of lifes pleasures as I have become more and more adventurous in my wine making. Vermouth is originally French with the Italians adopting it creating two differing styles but Britain has a long tradition of herbal tonics, infused spirits, spiced chutneys and Nandos so there is no reason why this should not come naturally to me through osmosis… google… trial and error… and advice… if any one gives it…

The Art of Drink had a solid looking basic vermouth recipe so became the basis of mine. (thanks Art of Drink – I’m only borrowing it!) I swapped a few ingredients out of necessity and personal preference as I cannot get quinine in Britain and hate camomile finding it overpowering so decided to use just a smudge of some foraged English walnut leaf.

foraged yarrow
Yarrow!

Then I wanted to steer it towards some traditionally English tastes using flowers as this had been the best vermouth I had made. Elderflowers were added as they make a great white wine and can compliment the base wine white used for a vermouth. A few dandelion heads were harvested, though they are becoming rarer with the hottest summer months starting to make them flower less. I had hoped for more to give a gingery hit but had to make do with what I could find. In all honesty I would like three times as many. Dandelion root was also substituted for some of the traditional bittering agents and I did consider hops but thought it might be too vegetal in taste. The last flower to be added was yarrow which is an aromatic weed that happily grows everywhere which I literally stumbled over as I walked home. It grows in small patches as it is rhizomatous (25 points in Scrabble) and has small clumped white or pink flowers with fern like leaves. The leaves are a full on kick to the taste buds but the flowers more mild and taste of a mild aniseed and liquorish and can be found in a fair few vermouth recipes.

I’m not the only person that thought of English vermouth either as there is The Collector Vermouth but I think we can all agree that a professional chef, drink tosser and herb fondler should cower before me the enthusiastic amateur lacking taste buds and modesty. Their vermouth uses an apple spirit as the fortifier rather than the traditional brandy, grappa or in my case white port. Inspired by this I may make a peach or plum spirit as I have them close to hand and easy to forage but this will very much be next years experiment. I did decide to use a smashed peach stone to add a rounded earthy base note though.

There are two versions I made. One with caramelised sugar in a shop bought white wine and another dryer version using my own oak leaf wine which is I hope light enough to take the additions. Caramelising sugar is an easy concept that hides the teeth gnashingly difficult task to do it. Too little heat nothing happens then the slightest hint of too much and it burns to fuck then laughs at you.

Vermouth ingredients

ENGLISH VERMOUTH (NOVO STYLE) – 2 litres

2 x bottles of white wine

400ml of spirit (brandy, grappa, vodka, white port, sherry etc)

200g caramelised sugar

1.5g Wormwood

0.5g Gentian Root (or similar bittering agent)

1g Dandelion root

10g Elderflowers

45 Heads of dandelion petals (I only got 15)

0.25g Camomile flowers or a pinch of walnut leaf

1g Vanilla bean

3 Cardamom pods (shell removed)

4 strips of orange peel (Seville oranges are best)

1g Oregano

0.25g each of rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, coriander seed

10 yarrow flower heads

1 x Cracked peach stone

Caramelising sugarTo caramelise the sugar put it in a good quality heavy pan with 2 tsp of sugar and stir while on a medium heat. As it starts to dissolve stop stirring and start to swirl it around the pan to keep it moving. It will purée more and more to become a syrup and start to boil. Keep it simmering but on the lowest heat you can manage it. After a few minutes it will start to brown. After 10 or so minutes it will be a rich nutty brown. Pour it onto greased proof paper making sure none will pour off as it is so viscous. This syrup has a lot of heat so make sure it cannot damage any counter tops and resist the temptation to stick a finger in it as it is weaponised sugar acting like napalm and can stick to your skin. Leave for an hour to harden.

 

As the caramelised sugar sets grab some miniature scales and measure out all your ingredients. I made groups so that they could be incrementally added to the boil.

  • Group 1 – Florals – elderflower and dandelion
  • Group 2 – Bitters – wormwood, gentian & dandelion root and coriander seed and the peach stone
  • Group 3 – Herbs – camomile/walnut leaf, vanilla bean, cardamom, orange peel, oregano, rosemary, sage, basil, thyme
  • Group 4 – Yarrow (yarrow’s taste is very delicate so this is the last addition when off the boil)
Organised ingredients
Divide your ingredients to know what and when they get added to your spirit.

Pour the spirit into a good heavy pan and add the group 1 floral elements get it to the boil so it can extract as much flavour.

400ml port
There are no rules about what fortifies your vermouth and opinion varies as to what is best.

When the boil starts reduce it to a simmer and start to time it for 10 minutes. Add the Bitters group straight away.

With 5 minutes to go add the herbs

Steeping ingredients for vermouth
Differing ingredients release flavours in different ways, staggering them maximises them with out extracting woodier tastes.

When 10 minutes are up remove from the boil and add the yarrow flowers as it cools.

Leave until cold in a covered pan and then strain through coffee filters (top up with a little spirit if you need to to get it back towards 400ml.

Combine the cleared infused spirits to the wine then crush the caramelised sugar and add a good portion but reserve about 50g.

Taste test and add more sugar if desired.

Vermouth lunch
You deserve a test drive.

Ready to drink right away in a cocktail though a few days wait to muddle is recommended. Can be kept indefinitely but best used with in three months – once open and in use refrigerate and use with in a month if you can.

If any one has any experience hints, tips or recommendations I would love to hear it!!!

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jun/19/how-to-make-perfect-vermouth

https://www.artofdrink.com/ingredient/how-to-make-vermouth

http://www.thecollectorvermouth.com/

 

MAKING COCKTAIL BITTERS

grapefruit-strawberry-and-blackberry-bitters
Hopped grapefruit / Strawberry and bay / Blackberry bitters

Bitters are a versatile way to change a standard gin and tonic adding a rich complex flavour, obviously bitter but also with aromatic spices, slight sweetness, sharp citrus or even a savoury celery taste. Sadly commercial bitters are also expensive, a £10 to £20 punt on an additive can be prohibitive with a small bottle easily passed over for another day. Luckily they are easy to make… ish… well technically the work is easy but the actual blending is a little more stressful!

READ ABOUT MY STRAWBERRY VERMOUTH HERE

READ ABOUT MY TONIC WATER HERE

Earlier in the year I made some Vermouth which while not good enough as a stand alone drink it was great as an addition to cocktails, the botanical version pairing nicely with rhubarb or sloe gin and the spiced version a great partner to blackberry gin. The mountain of botanicals I bought also made it into some home made tonic water – a great tasting and money saving alternative to the bland Schwitty supermarket brands. With a mountain of exotic herbs and spices I have decided to turn some of it to making some bitters. Some for me and some for presents I have just thrust upon my unwitting family.

spiritus
Spirytus can be used to increase the ABV/proof of your base alcohol

Bitters are concentrated tastes held in a base of high proof alcohol usually either a clear grain like gin, vodka or apparently best Everclear (the American frat boys spirit of choice) or a darker alcohol like whiskey or bourbon. The base alcohol obviously pushes it towards a certain style and further exotic versions can have rum or even wine as a base. No matter what base you use it needs to be strong, 100% proof or 50abv. If you need to adjust you alcohol you can find a range of calculators like this on the internet – http://homedistiller.org/distill/dilute/calc

The base is used as a solvent to macerate the flavouring ingredients. Most important is the bittering agent that is normally quassia bark, wormwood, cinchona bark, angelica root or gentian root but could be more exotic or less well known bittering agents like artichoke leaf, mugwort, horehound or cherry bark. Some bittering agents are used also as a genuine addition to the taste bringing a roundness or “softness” with citrus peel, dandelion root, black walnut leaf or fruit stones being examples. The bittering agents could be up to 50% of the flavouring in the bitters but most of mine had 10% so there is ample room to blend subtly different styles using combinations of ingredients.

Many bitters have a dominating fruit taste like cherry, fig, orange or plums. Almost anything seems possible. Celery bitters are great to add to a Bloody Mary. Coffee and cocoa beans, almonds, pecans and other nuts can also be used.

ingredients-macerating
Various ingredients macerating

In addition to the fruit or as an alternative herbs and spices can can be added. Angostura is a generous blend of herbs and spices that needs no fruit. All the usual dried herbs like basil or thyme can be used and teas like camomile or other floral tastes like lavender and rose petals. Raid your spice draw from allspice, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, fennel and peppercorns and rarer spices like juniper, cassia and star anise. The important thing is to use whole spices rather than powders for a full flavour to be extracted. They can be cracked or pummelled in a pestle and mortar.
Sweetness is optional but can be added as white or brown sugars, dissolved as simple syrup, honey or burned caramel similar to that added to vermouth.

Making the bitters is logistically simple but infinitely hard blending your recipe. You need time to do it – at least a month for the alcohol to be used as a solvent to extract all the flavours out of your ingredients. The most basic method is to throw everything into your alcohol and leave it steeping in a jar. Great if you have a definite recipe but madness if not.

sage-macerating
Sage macerating in 50% ABV vodka

Making small batches of your ingredients and blending after the flavour extracts means you are in control. Keep a note of how much you soak and blend for future recipes. Making the component flavours also means you can control the soak. Bittering agents and dried spices and herbs generally take 7 to 10 days to macerate, dominant fruits and zests the longest at 21 to 28 days, fresh herbs like fennel 14 days. There is no right or wrong, smell and taste them a drop at a time then filter out the sediments when done.
Ratios are approximate as you will be blending later. Add 2 tsp of dried botanicals to 100g /100ml of your base alcohol or alternatively 1 part dried botanical to 5 parts alcohol, or 1 part fresh botanical to 2 parts alcohol. Place them into a sterilised jar and shake once a day and store in a dark cupboard. Once they seem ready filter through clean muslin or a coffee filter. Keep them labelled to track what and when they were made as you can keep them for years for further bitters. You do not need to make these components as 100ml measurements though. Lavender is very powerful and fragrant so I made only 20ml. The citrus zests were made in larger measures.

making-bitters-1
Blending hopped grapefruit bitters

Once all the infusions are available the fun can start – blending! Start to blend keeping some decent notes as a guide. Measurements can be kept via weight or pipette drops. Use some sparkling water to periodically drop your bitters into as a taste control but keep in mind a true test will be needed. If a taste becomes dominant add a balance. Once done store in a suitable bottle and start to use after 3 days when the flavours have really muddled.

Sod that get a gin and tonic on the go to give it a true field test!!! Bitters are additions so the true test is with other drinks and keep in mind that some bitters may be suited to certain spirits or cocktails more than others.

making-bitters-3

As the alcohol content is so high there is no need to refrigerate or worry about a use by date. they will last 2 years at least. the only real damage can be done by sunlight or possibly constant changes in temperature.

To start I am made two bitters using vodka as a base, then also knocked out an amazing Strawberry bitter. In future I may well try a Whiskey based version to see how the herbs and spices differ making a sloe bitter or maybe a grapefruit and paprika bitter. Any hints, tips and suggestions appreciated!

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HOPPED BLACK PEPPERCORN AND GRAPEFRUIT BITTERS
116ml of 2 pink grapefruit zests, 10 hop heads and 7 peppercorns
30ml orange zest solution
2ml lavender solution
1 ml fennel solution
1 ml coriander solution
2 heaped tsp sugar
40ml grapefruit juice (I froze this after zesting the fruit and kept to add it)

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STRAWBERRY AND BAY BITTERS
This needs to live in the fridge as there is less alcohol to preserve it.

strawberry-syrup
Strawberry syrup being made

100ml strawberry and bay syrup (pour 10ml of water onto 10 or so strawberries and 1 crushed bay leaf and 50g of sugar. Leave for 2 days and then filter to remove the fruit)
5ml gentian solution
3ml rose petal solution
5ml orange zest solution
1ml fennel
1 ml lemon zest solution

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BLACKBERRY BITTERS
(Personally I think this needs a little work but it was a more than adequate start!)
140ml blackberry solution
5ml orange zest solution
5 ml lemon zest solution
5ml dandelion root solution
2ml gentian solution
1ml cinnamon solution

NON-CINCHONA TONIC WATER

After spending a small fortune for rare ingredients to MAKE MY OWN VERMOUTH I obviously had enough left over for another 10 years of vermouth experiments and maybe crazed experiments in tonic water too. In fact it is not tonic water but a tonic cordial frozen as ice cubes that is then diluted to make the true tonic water.

These were the best resources I found were:

https://pinchandswirl.com/homemade-tonic-water-for-the-ultimate-gin-and-tonic/
http://www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com/2008/how-to-make-your-own-tonic-water
http://www.davidlebovitz.com/homemade-tonic-water-recipe/
http://vinepair.com/wine-blog/why-you-should-be-making-your-own-tonic-with-recipe/
http://www.alcademics.com/2014/08/potential-dangers-of-homemade-tonic-water.html
http://tessposthumus.com/how-to-make-tonic-water/
http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/spiced-tonic-water-28699

Tonic water has always and always will have a quinine in it. Quinine is the very reason it exists as a herbal tonic to stop malaria, that morphed into tonic water and was thus added to gin or cocktails ever since. I cannot get my hands on cinchona bark the ingredient that gives the quinine as in Britain it is restricted for sale… as you can poison yourself… or others with it. Quinine is extracted from cinchona but no one really knows how much is extracted in a domestic setting and many recipes if followed with maximum extraction could bring it to toxic levels. Which brings us to the recipes you can get your hands on for making cinchona bark-based tonic – no one really knows if they are truly safe.

Seeing as I did not have cinchona and I did have The Fear, I decided to look at non-cinchona recipes and see what I could do with the ingredients I did have. A decent spread of the ingredients seems to be:

  • BITTERS – cinchona bark… or quassia bark, gentian root, (with hops, dandelion root)
  • ZESTS – lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit
  • BOTANICALS – lemongrass, cardamom, allspice, star anise, peppercorns, coriander seed, ginger, lavender
  • SWEET – sugar, agave nectar
  • ACID – lemon, lime, grapefruit juice, citric acid
  • SALT – salt… obviously
tonic-ingredients
Tonic water ingredients

The two non-cinchona bittering agents I could use were quassia bark or gentian root. Quassia bark is intensely bitter and only needs 1/4 of the weight to give a similar bitterness to quinine. Do not confuse quassia with cassia bark that is very similar to nutmeg. Gentian is apparently gram-for-gram very similar to cinchona which I plan to test for the next batch. Hops and dandelion root are not a primary bittering agent but rather to add flavour complexity. The botanicals vary greatly with some preferring a very zesty flavour, others a more aromatic version with lavender. Some may like to just add allspice while others muddle with various extra ingredients. I would say that grapefruit should be used sparingly – an interesting addition but one that can dominate and also lemon grass can go from fragrant ingredient to pungent overpowering uber-taste very easily. Agave syrup can be substituted for granulated sugar but only 2/3 of the weight is needed. The ratio of sweetness you need really is key to a good tonic as too little dulls the overall taste and hitting the literal sweet spot makes all the botanicals come alive.

Poisonous ingredients and their ratios might be a nightmare but the method could not be easier. Boil – Simmer – Soak – Strain – Sweeten.

  1. Boil the bittering agents to extract as much flavour as possible for 10 minutes. Filter into a new pan
  2. Add the botanicals and simmer for a further 20 minutes
  3. Leave to cool and add the citrus to soak for 3 days in a sealed jar in a cool dark cupboard
  4. Strain and add sugar
  5. Freeze in ice cube trays

When it comes time to use the tonic drop a tonic icecube in your glass and dilute with x5 the volume of sparkling water or soda water.

Now without further ado.. seriously, look at the links I posted to see what they did… this is my personal recipe tailor made for me…

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TONIC WATER A LA GAZETTE – 1 LITRE
Water 1L
Quassia wood 7g (or gentian root 20g)
Hops 1 head (I found some foraged but non-essential)
Dandelion root 3g
Lemon grass x 2 stalks bruised
Zest of 3 limes, 3 lemons, 2 oranges (1/2 grapefruit optional)
Juice of 2 limes, 2 lemons (1/2 grapefruit optional)
Cardamom x 6 pods
Allspice berry x 4 (I used 1/8 tsp allspice powder)
1/4 tsp coriander seers crushed
1/2 tsp peppercorns crushed
1/4 tsp salt
Agave nectar 350g
Sugar 250g

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tonic-botanicals
Simmering tonic water

Boil one litre of water and drop in the quassia wood, hops and dandelion root and boil for 10 minutes to extract all of the bitterness. Drop to a simmer and add the Lemon grass x 2 stalks bruised, cardamom (removed from the pod and lightly crushed) allspice, crushed coriander seeds & peppercorns and salt for 20 minutes.

tonic-zests
Steeping citrus zest in the tonic water

Leave to cool then filter before adding the juice, zests and sugar and stir until dissolved. Leave in a sealed sterile bottle for three days then filter into ice cube trays and freeze. The cubes will last at least three months probably more. Dilute with sparkling or soda water when needed.

MAKING STRAWBERRY VERMOUTH

x3-finished-vermouths
3 Strawberry Vermouths: Floral / Botanical / Spiced

Vermouth as every article states was a way for pissed up monks to cover their poor wine making skills. Herbs, spices and fruit was added to cover off tastes in white wines and over the centuries it has evolved from health giving tonic to slightly naff cocktail ingredient.

So I have decided to get with the monks and make some vermouth but hopefully it can be a decent drink on its own rather than an additive, though I am sure it will get added to a few cocktails as Ms Gazette and I chill out in the garden. Lets face it it has taken us 4 years to grow a lawn so lets celebrate it.

Vermouth is as much an idea as a thing. There are no standard recipes only guide lines. Generally it is usually 16-18% ABV but can be between 14.5 to 22% according to EU law. To get this ABV a base wine is fortified, then flavours added that are many and varied with no set recipe. Wormwood though is considered essential as this derived the name coming form “Wermut” in German.

Looking for recipes was difficult but here are a few that seemed well researched:

Ipprocrasso: the first medieval vermouth

Traditional vermouth recipe

Another traditional vermouth recipe

Sweet vermouth recipe

Strawberry vermouth recipe

Finally another strawberry vermouth

So just like regular wine there are sweet and dry vermouths. Sweet can be very sweet with caramelised sugar being added to take the gravity up to 1.10 which is stronger than an unfermented fruit wine – probably 1.25 kg of sugar to a 4.5 litre demijohn! As I want an aperitif I am going for a dry which can be up to 1.03 gravity. My base wine will be a Strawberry wine that is 5 months in age. this is because Strawberry wine is both delicious and capable of being dry.

vermouth-alcohols
Strawberry wine and port ready to make the vermouth

STRAWBERRY WINE RECIPE

Vermouth can be fortified with brandy, eau d’ vie (no idea), cognac, grappa, sherry or even port. I was trying to decided on two differing fortifications using grappa or white port but decided the herbs and spices would be motre interesting to alter. Usually dry vermouth is oaked but I think this will fight the strawberry taste so I am skipping this step. Here is a guide to oak chips for anyone that is interested though: OAK CHIPS

vermouth-flavours
Spice drawer raided

The botanicals can be divided up a number of ways so here is my totally unscientific taste selection. There may well be a million more too. Send some details if you have ever made one!

BITTERING AGENTS
wormwood – essential for classic vermouth, gentian, mugwort, chichona bark (often illegal to buy in many countries as it is potentially toxic), angelica, orang peel, dandelion root, coriander, hops, quinine (sounds dangerous but some swear by it), pumpkin seed, sloe stones, peach stone

SPICES
cloves, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, coriander (slight bitter too), saffron, vanilla bean, cardamom, fennel seeds, fenugreek, nutmeg, peppercorn, cassia bark

FRUIT
citrus peel, berries, juniper, rose petals, elder flowers, raspberry juice, rhubarb juice

HERBS
Oregano, sage, basil, thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, chamomile (slightly bitter), marjoram, dill, lavender

Not all of these are necessarily suitable for strawberry so I decided to make three differing recipes that erred to certain flavours as experiments. All had the basic base of 250ml of white port, 500ml of strawberry wine and 50g of white sugar. Ms Gazette and I then started to mix and match various pots making the following:

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FLORAL VERMOUTH
1g angelica root
1/2g lavender
1g camomile
2 cardamom pods
2 twists black peppercorn
1/2g cinnamon
1/2g rosemary
0.2g of sage oregano and thyme
1/2g gentian root
1/2g wormwood
tiny drop of rose water
1g elderflower

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SPICED VERMOUTH
1 point of star anise
0.6g cinnamon
1 clove
0.1g nutmeg
1/2g coriander seed
0.3g fennel
1g lemon zest
1/2g rosemary
0.2g medowsweet
1 small pinch orange blossom
1 small bay leaf
1/2g wormwood

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BOTANICAL VERMOUTH
1 sloe stone
1 cherry stone
1 juniper berry
1/2g lemon zest
1/2g orange zest
0.2g gentian root
0.2g black horehound
0.2g angelica root
2 cardamom pods
2 strands safron
1/2g rosemary
0.3g thyme
0.2g wormwood

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Many of the above can be pilfered from your local spice draw, the camomile was liberated from a tea bag. I had some elderflowers in the freezer as well as a few sloes from foraging. Some ingredients are a little more specialist so going to specialist herbalists or mail order was necessary.

floral-spice-mix
Floral recipe ingredients

Infusing the ingredients can be done in a number of ways making individual pots of each flavour and combining like some kind of demented apothecarist like Grenouille from sexy murder book “Perfume,” adding to a bag and dropping into the base wine or as I have decided, simmering in the fortifying drink then filtering out and dissolving the sugar. Once cooled it can be added to the wine, mixed a little and then bottled.

Use a set of micro scales to measure the ingredients. If you just ordered that set of scales online, congratulations – MI5 are probably tracking you as drug dealer. As this is to your own taste, keep tasting as you simmer the ingredients, add a little more of this or that as you go. If one taste dominates simply add more of the fortifier and the receding ingredients to bring back to a palatable combination.

simmering-vermouth
Infusing the floral ingredients

Once cooled add to the base wine and voilà – ready to drink straight away, though they mix and age a little over a few days. It should be polished off within 3 months and once a bottle is opened kept in the fridge where it will be happy for a month or so.

x3-vermouths
Cooling ready for the wine. Each version had a slightly differing hue

Having sampled the three neat and added to gin I am more than a little pleased with the results. The spiced version seems the most well rounded though all taste good. They are punchier than a bog standard supermarket vermouth with more flavours that hit the tongue immediately or as after tastes. Adding the floral and spiced together seems to really work.

Perhaps adding a fresh strawberry sugar syrup could make a sweet vermouth and I could use a very light elderflower or even quince wine as a base for the dryer version next time – I have enough of the specialist ingredients now!

The base alcohol may change as I am interested to see if grappa or sherry change the tastes and I may well play about with a true caramel sugar too or add some vanilla. The bittering agents are perhaps the most complex element I will try to develop using a range of ingredients trying not to get one dominant punch that over powers and certainly pacing the steeping process so they are added later with the more floral and herbal elements at the start. The sloe and cherry stones I may use more of to get a rounder warmer taste and also adding 1g of ginger will add to all of the recipes. The floral was a little too lavender-centric so that can be pared down a little next time.

Hopefully over a few months or years I can really get to understand the components and make a bespoke vermouth. Any ideas or advice I’d be more than happy to hear so drop me a line but for now if you don’t mind, Ms Gazette is waiting in the garden.