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Alcohol Free Sweet Vermouth | Yes, It's Possible!

Hello, Friends of Cocktails. Welcome to episode 3 of zero-proof cocktails, where I show you how to make a non-alcoholic ingredient and how to use that for a zero-proof version of a classic cocktail. Today we’re making non-alcoholic sweet vermouth, and we’ll use that to make a completely zero-proof Manhattan cocktail. This is a great way to take care of your non-imbibing friends, or just try a different approach to a classic cocktail.

First of all, the classic Manhattan is made with rye or bourbon whiskey, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters, and garnished with a candied cherry, but to make it zero-proof we'll need to swap out all three alcoholic ingredients. I’ve made 0-proof Bourbon and 0-proof Bitters before, both aromatic and orange bitters, which I’ve kept in the freezer since they’re not shelf stable like their alcoholic counterparts, but as always, don’t expect these to reach the same complexity or that subtle burn you get from alcohol.

Just like in the previous non-alcoholic episodes, I took inspiration from the book ZERO: A New Approach To Non-Alcoholic Drinks. It offers an interesting take on how to create 0-proof versions of classic cocktails by making your own DIY ingredients as building blocks that open up mixology options for those that wish to stay away from alcohol. As with the previous recipes, I tested the book version of sweet vermouth and adjusted it slightly according to my taste.

We’ll end up with a sweet vermouth with almost coca-cola like notes. Spices, vanilla, and caramel on the palate will give us the subtle sensation of vermouth with its blend of acidity, sweetness, and spiciness. Also as a note, after the 0-proof bourbon episode many of you pointed out this book is hard to find, so I really hope these episodes come in handy when you want to make something without alcohol, but with a little extra care and attention.

But if you’d like to do the same without all the hard work, our friends from Le Petit Béret have the solution for you. They offer a wide selection of non-alcoholic wines, beers, sparkling wines, and what’s most exciting, non-alcoholic spirits and liqueurs. From Orange Spritz, Caribbean Woody and even their Malt Blend they offer a variety of tastes to fit every palate and occasion - serve it straight at the end of a meal as a digestif or use it with today’s vermouth to make a non-alcoholic Rob Roy.

Now let’s go over how to make what this book calls “in the style of sweet vermouth”. I prefer making it in the sous vide, but if you don’t have it yet I’ll also show you how to make the whole thing in a saucepan, as per the book. For now, let’s begin by making caramel sugar, like we did for our homemade Coca-Cola.

Caramel Sugar

● 200g White Sugar

● Water

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and a small amount of water, just enough to cover the sugar. Heat the mixture and use a thermometer to monitor the temperature until it reaches 185°C or 365°F, and once we get to this temperature the sugar should be perfectly caramelized for your non-vermouth. Carefully pour the caramel onto parchment paper placed on a baking sheet and allow it to cool and solidify.

Be really careful when making this to avoid any burns, as the temperatures are very high. Once the caramelized sugar has completely cooled, break it into pieces and measure out 100g, and now we can start adding the ingredients into the sous vide bag.

Zero Sweet Vermouth

● 100g Caramel Sugar

● 780g Water

● 70g Glycerol

● 120g Verjuice

● 2g Vanilla Bean

● 22g Grated Ginger

● 36g Dehydrated Figs

● 120g Cherries (with pits)

● 24g Orange Peels

● 18g Lemon Peels

● 22g Raisins

● 6g Cassia Cinnamon

● 0.5g Green Cardamom

● 0.5g Cloves

● 1g Dried Chamomile

● 1.2g Persian Rose Buds

● 3g Dried Hibiscus

● 0.4g Dried Tarragon

● 1g Cinchona Bark

● 1.6g Wormwood

● 2g Pectinex

Add all but the Pectinex to the bag, vacuum seal it with a double seal as always, then place in the sous vide bath, set to 90 °C or 195 °F, for 1 hour. In total this will yield about 1 liter of non-alcoholic vermouth, but you can store it in smaller bottles and place them in the freezer, like I did with bourbon and bitters. Remember to shake up the bag a few times during this one hour, and meanwhile I’ll show you how to use the stove method, as described in the book.

Again the ingredients are slightly different but this doesn’t change the process described in the book, so you’ll start by melting the sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it’s slightly burned and just beginning to smoke. Then slowly add very small amounts of water at a time, swirling the pot between each addition to incorporate it into the sugar. Repeat this process until the liquid is no longer boiling, then add the remaining water and all the other ingredients.

I’m using the same ingredients and amounts as for the sous vide method. Then cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil at which point you’ll lower the heat and maintain a slow simmer for 1 hour. After that remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool completely. Then you’ll filter the liquid and optionally clarify it before bottling, but I’ll show that with our original batch, so once the sous vide is done place the bag in an ice bath to chill completely.

Cut open the bag and strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and squeeze out every last drop before we go to that extra step to clarify it with Pectinex. For that we need to first weigh out our yield. That’s because we'll add 0.2g of Pectinex for every 100g of our sweet non-vermouth.

Clarified Zero Sweet Vermouth

● 1L Zero Sweet Vermouth

● 2g Pectinex

Mix the Zero Vermouth well with the Pectinex and leave it on the counter to clarify overnight, then you’ll slowly filter the mixture through a coffee filter. First make sure you’re getting clear liquid through, then transfer the filter and re-filter the first part, then bottle, label and you’re done. This should be good in the fridge for up to a week and for several months in the freezer, and with that we’re ready to make the Virgin Manhattan. You don’t hear that as often as the Virgin Mojito or the Virgin Pina Colada, right?

Virgin Manhattan

● 90mL (3oz) Zero Bourbon

● 45mL (1.5oz) Zero Sweet Vermouth

● 2 dashes Zero Aromatic Bitters

● 1 dash Zero Orange Bitters

● 2 drops Saline Solution

● Cocktail Cherry

Just like you would for a classic Manhattan, start with a chilled mixing glass. To that we’ll add our Zero Bourbon, Zero Sweet Vermouth, Zero Bitters and Saline Solution. Since there’s no alcohol in any of the ingredients, the ice will not melt as much, meaning there will be less dilution. Now stir well and get a really well chilled coupe glass and strain the zero-proof cocktail into it. Add a cocktail cherry and tell me if that doesn’t look nicer than the cranberry & orange juice mix your non-drinking friends usually get served at cocktail parties. Cheers!

Subtle smokiness of our zero-bourbon and the sweet-tart notes of vermouth, with hints of fruitiness and herbal essence, beautifully intertwine in this interesting Manhattan variation. Admittedly far from the classic, but it manages to flirt with it in some aspects. This cocktail is my favorite so far from the zero-proof series. What would you like to see next? Let me know in the comments of the episode on YouTube, and also leave a grape or apple emoji while you’re there.

Why? Because in today’s Bottom of the Glass we’re talking about Verjus, or Verjuice. We used this tart and acidic juice today, and I made it way back in 2020 for the Verjuice Sidecar, and right now is the right time to make it yourself. That is because verjuice is made from unripe sour fruits, most notably grapes and apples. It’s often used as a culinary ingredient but it can also be a locally sourced and homemade replacement for citrus juice in your cocktail.

Grape verjuice works great with brandy or white rum, apple verjuice would be a great addition to scotch and bourbon. Gin and vodka work great with both. So get picking unripe fruits and start ver-juicing. And don’t forget to check out other zero-proof episodes… or the history of the classic Manhattan if you’ve heard enough about non-alcoholic stuff for one day. Cheers, Friends of Cocktails!


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