I've been tossing around the idea of making a cocktail blog for a while now, and this Mixology Monday seemed like the perfect time to start. This challenge was the perfect opportunity both because I had recently been playing around with vintage rye cocktails and because having a firm deadline would push me to actually get something finished.
Despite my recent interest in rye cocktails I don't have a great collection of ryes or the experience to make a perfectly balanced Manhattan, so I thought I would try to make my own vermouth. After some research I discovered that vermouth originated from the German "Wermut" (lit. "wormwood"), a wormwood infused wine, and decided instead to recreate that. The closest thing to wermut that I could find a recipe for is a Romanian wormwood infused wine called "Vin Pelin" (lit. "wormwood wine"). The forum of Ms. Jekyll's Absinthe Blog has the following recipe:
6 lites bon vin blanc
50 grammes de grand et petite absinthe
Faire infuser 24 heures, passer avec expression et filtrer
6 liters good white wine + 50 grams of Artemisia absinthium and Artemisia pontica - infuse for 24 hours and filter.Artemisia Absinthium, better known as "big-leaf" or "greater" wormwood, is freely available online--I bought mine from Raven Moonlight on Amazon.com, but Artemisia Pontica ("small leaf" or "little" wormwood, apparently the prime ingredient in Roman wormwood wine) was nowhere to be found. I ultimately decided to just try to make the infusion without the little wormwood, just keeping the original ratio of greater wormwood to white wine. I also went with German wine to make some attempt to stay historically/regionally accurate. I don't know anything about wine, so I chose based on Total Wine's flavor profile and the cost of each bottle. I ended up with Hans Schiller's "Qualitatswein Liebfraumilch" (apparently this translates to "quality wine, beloved lady milk,"), Dr. Heidemanns-Berweiler's Reisling 2013, and Rheinhessen's "Red Vin."
CAUTION: Wormwood, and other Artemisia plants, contain Thujone, a compound that can cause seizures and potentially death in large amounts. I DO NOT KNOW THE THUJONE AMOUNT OF THIS INFUSION. I drank a decently large amount (about a quarter of a liter of the finished infusion) as I was trying to come up with a cocktail and was fine, but I wouldn't suggest drinking large amounts of the infusion.
The best way to describe the flavor of wormwood is a slightly bitter Vermouth flavor. Liebfraumilch was by far my favorite wine to infuse, it is light, crisp, and citrusy and perfectly compliments the wormwood. The Reisling was too heavy and sweet and ended up muddling the wormwood. The Red Vin did well when infused with wormwood, becoming tangy and pleasantly medicinal.
I toyed around with a few different cocktail ideas before settling on my recipe for the City West (named after the largest commercial district in Berlin), which combines both red and white wormwood wine:
|The City West|
The City West
- 1.5 oz. Wild Turkey Rye
- .75 ounce red wormwood wine
- .75 ounce white wormwood wine
- 1 heaping barspoon white sugar
- 2 dashes Angostura
- 1 Luxardo cherry
Stir rye, both wormwood wines, angostura, and sugar vigorously over ice. Strain into a coupe over a large ice cube (skull shaped if possible), and garnish with a Luxardo cherry.
- 12.5 grams greater wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium)
- 1 .75l bottle of a light, crisp, citrusy white wine
- 1 .75l bottle of a sweet red wine
Infuse each bottle of wine with 6.25 grams of greater wormwood and let sit for 24 hours, strain through a fine cheesecloth and refrigerate (see the caution above regarding thujone).
The City West is a lighter more citrus version of the standard Manhattan with a mildly bitter finish that combines with the chocolatey aftertaste of Wild Turkey Rye to make a complex and satisfying finish. Wormwood wine is much crisper than Vermouth, and the combination of both red and white vermouth wine is complex and herbal without tasting overly medicinal. White sugar replaces the sugar that would otherwise have been added in via the Vermouth and helps balance and tie together the drink. I added a large ice cube mostly because I like the way it looks rising out of the coupe above the drink but the wormwood wine is best very chill.
Thanks to cocktail