- Sarah O'Kelley
What I Drink When I’m Not Drinking Wine (sort of)
Updated: Feb 14, 2022
Once upon a time I drank all sorts of adult beverages…I went through a big Bourbon phase and enjoyed beaucoup Gin & Tonics while living in New Orleans. Then like many Charleston residents I came to appreciate the myriad of delicious Old World beers via Scott and Rich at the Charleston Beer Exchange.
However, I have to admit that ever since I thoroughly went down the wine rabbit hole I rarely venture outside my preferred adult beverage genre. Truthfully, I have become a total light weight since the heady days of New Orleans, and these days a Belgian Triple would most definitely put me under the proverbial table!
But...I do love some of the offshoots of the wine category, specifically Vermouth and Amaro. So imagine my delight when my co-worker/well known Charleston bartender Jessica Backhus turned me onto the Garden to Glass cocktail book, which includes a recipe for making your own Vermouth. Jessica worked with the author Mike Wolf at Husk in Nashville (and she is featured in his soon-to-be released second book)!
The entire Garden to Glass book is a dream if you have even the slightest interest in the natural world and cocktails. It’s filled with all sorts of enticing concoctions and tales like making your own Nocino (a bitter liqueur from freshly foraged walnuts)!
But the very first recipe in the book (and the one that stole my heart): Gardener’s Vermouth. While Vermouth is basically an aromatized wine that’s generally fortified, this one just calls for adding some simple syrup to your favorite white wine and infusing with herbs from your garden. A quick glance at the ingredient list literally had my heart racing as I realized -- I could indeed make my very own garden vermouth!
I acted quickly as we all know that most southern gardens start withering away in August. So I improvised on Mike’s recipe and managed to use all herbs from my garden along with some wormwood donated from a friend’s garden.
Perhaps it’s sacrilegious, but I used one of my favorite bottles of affordable Chenin Blanc and within days I had a true nectar of the gods!! I enjoyed my very own garden vermouth with sparkling water and a lemon twist -- the perfect aperitif before dinner!
Below is my rendition of Mike’s recipe but feel free to make your own improvisations. And rest assured I will be stocking Garden to Glass on the shelves at Edmund’s Oast Exchange soon!
My Garden Vermouth
1 bottle dry white wine
3 ounces rich simple syrup (2 parts sugar: 1 part water)
2 tomato leaves, torn
2 basil leaves, torn
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs mint
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs parsley (or parsley flowers!)
2 sprigs lemon verbena
2 sprigs lavender
1 sprig fresh wormwood (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 stem of rosemary
1 stalk of lemongrass
5 honeysuckle blossoms
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Peel the lemon and place peels on a baking sheet in the oven for about 20 minutes, until relatively dried out. (Save rest of lemon for salad dressing!)
Transfer dried lemon peels to a sealable container with remaining ingredients (I used a very large Mason jar.) Shake to combine. Store in the refrigerator and allow ingredients to infuse for 3 days. Shake each day to encourage flavor development. After 3 days, strain out herbs and return your vermouth to the sealable container and use over the next 2 months (if it lasts that long)!