The historical roots (no pun intended) of aromatised wines stretch back to ancient times, with the earliest records for fortified wines dating back to the, Shang and Western Zhou dynasties in China circa 1250-1000BC, (although 'wormwood wine' reportedly 'played a key role' in India circa 1500BC). Vermouth is the French pronunciation of, wermut, the German word for the herb, Wormwood. Fortified wines containing wormwood as a principal ingredient existed in Germany in around the 16th century. At around the same time, in Italy, a chap called D'Alessio began to produce a similar product which he called 'wormwood wine'. By the mid 17th century that drink was being consumed in good ol' England and it went by the name 'vermouth' and that has become the common name for the drink.
|Wild Foraged Vermouth|
A Vermouth is basically an aromatised & fortified wine. It has a white wine base into which a certain and/or various herbs, roots, seeds & barks are added for flavour and balance. However, without the addition of the herb Wormwood a vermouth isn't a vermouth, it's just an aromatised wine, apparently - and so it begins!
These, like vermouth, also have a white wine base into which certain or various natural herbs, roots, seeds, fruits & barks are added for flavour and balance. They are often subjected to the addition of spirits to further fortify and increase their strength and their 'keeping' properties - wines which have had spirits added to them are also known as 'fortified wines', for example, Port.
Various countries have their own versions of aromatised wines, and as such, their names differ. In Italy they have 'Amaro' (which translates as 'bitters'), in Germany they have 'Krautlikor' (which translates as 'half-bitters' ) and it's also another name for Schnapps, although Schnapps reportedly contains fruits as opposed to herbs, unless you add the Americans into the mix - they add spices to their schnapps and sometimes sugar which then moves that schnapps into the classification of 'liqueur', further complicating matters!. Oh, and, according to EU Law, aromatised wines 'must' contain an alcohol content of between 14.5% - 22%, la de da... are you still with me?
Liqueurs or Liquors?
Seen as they've had a brief been mention already, I thought I'd delve briefly into their slightly complicated world too!
Liquers (pronounced 'lick-yures') have a distilled spirit base into which fruits, herbs, roots, nuts, flowers, spices etc... are added, along with sugar or some other sweetener. A true liqueur should contain an alcohol volume of between 15% - 30% but can be as high as 55% (need a drink yet?). In comparison, Liquor (pronounced 'licker'), though containing the same with regards to herbs, spices, fruits additions as liqueurs do, contain a much less sugar/sweetner content.
|Scrump Cocktail including Wild Foraged Vermouth|
They can all be drunk neat as aperitifs and digestifs and added to cocktails and long drinks to help season, add balance and a healthy element - honestly! All started life as medicinal mediums to prevent, help with and cure ailments and diseases. They are great fun to create and play about with, especially when you start adding wild foraged ingredients. It's really quite liberating too, you have total control over the ingredients you collect and add. They all contain alcohol and are very effective at aiding the inebriation process.
I don't know about you but I'm now in want of a drink, cheers ;)
Recipe for making your own Wild Foraged Vermouth or Amaro: http://edible-leeds.blogspot.co.uk/p/alcoholic.html