Gather Magazine

How to make foraged wild vermouth

Hedgerows have a lot to offer your drinks cabinet if you know where to look.

Relaxing under dappled sunlight at the end of the day with a cocktail made from ingredients you’ve harvested has to be top of the list when it comes to edible adventures. And if you’re happy to invest some time in learning the craft of boozy botany, making vermouth is a joyful place to start.

What is vermouth?

Tea, coffee, beer – people love bitter drinks, and vermouth is no exception. At its simplest, vermouth is wine and a little sugar infused with aromatic herbs and fortified with more alcohol. Noilly Pratt, one of the most popular brands and a staple in many cocktails and kitchens, is a blend of 20 closely guarded botanicals, one of which, wormwood, is a defining component. Wormwood (Artemesia absinthium) has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years and is a key ingredient of absinthe. It’s native to Europe and Asia, but can also be found in parts of the UK, mainly along the south coast. If you’re lucky enough to come across some, your vermouth will be a punchy, bitter-sweet delight, but there are many more wild plants you can have fun playing about with to create a delicious vermouth, and using something local to you is, after all, the whole point.

How to make foraged vermouth

Pick your ingredients

A mix of foraged flavours and store cupboard essentials can work well. Noilly Pratt lists chamomile, elderflower, coriander and orange peel among its herbs and spices, so any of those would make a safe bet, but anything with a stronger smell or taste that you enjoy could be your magic ingredient. Mugwort, a relative of wormwood, is less bitter than its traditional cousin but still wonderfully aromatic, and commonly found along the edges of fields and roadsides. Other ingredients could include: bay, fennel seeds, lemon balm, yarrow, sage, burdock, chickweed, milk thistle, dandelion, sorrel.

You will also need:

  • 1 bottle of dry white wine
  • 1 bottle of vodka (this neutral spirit is perfect for infusing. Buy the best you can afford, and the higher the ABV, the better)
  • 3 tbsp white granulated sugar

Macerate your vodka

Take as many small sterilised jars as you have chosen herbs and spices, half fill each with a single ingredient and top up with the vodka. Seal and leave in a dark place for two days.

Prepare the wine

Pour the wine into a non-metallic saucepan and heat gently until simmering. Add the sugar, simmer for five minutes until the sugar has dissolved and allow to cool completely.

Add the botanicals

Strain each of your vodka infusions and label them. For a balanced vermouth, a good rule of thumb is three parts wine to one part botanical. So 750ml of wine needs 250ml of botanicals. Make up this botanical mix, tasting as you go. Taking 25ml from 10 botanicals would give you 250ml, but stronger tasting infusions may need less, while more delicate flavours could be doubled up.

Bottle the vermouth

Once you’re happy with your mix, bottle it and leave to settle for a couple of days before using. Store in the fridge and use within three months.

Remember to always follow the most important rule of all when foraging: never eat anything unless you’re 100% sure of what it is. If you are pregnant, always check with your doctor before consuming new ingredients.