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Make Your Manhattans Merry with this Mulled Christmas Vermouth

5 from 1 vote

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Christmas Mulled Vermouth with mulled spice in a jar with sweet vermouth and loose spices in the background
Christmas Mulled Vermouth

We mull wine all the time, so why not create some mulled Christmas vermouth for use in cocktails like the Manhattan, Negroni, Boulevardier, Americano, Martinez, Old Pal, Vieux Carre, Hanky Panky and more! Instead of heating the wine, we’ll opt for a long, chilled infusion to set the flavors in the vermouth. This is one that infuses quickly over a day or so. 

While you can purchase mulled spice mixes, I prefer to build my own combination of dried spices to give it the particular flavor I’m looking for.

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What is Vermouth?

Vermouth lab - bottles of vermouth on a round tray

Vermouth is an aromatized, fortified wine. That means that the wine has some spirits added to it to bolster its proof – usually brandy or a grain spirit, and flavors are added to the vermouth via some method. Usually, spices, herbs, and botanicals are added via maceration or infusion.

Those botanicals give each specific brand of vermouth its own unique flavor profile. 

There are three main kinds of vermouth, sweet (or red) vermouth, dry (white) vermouth, and blanc vermouth. Sweet vermouth, made from red wine, is sweeter and heavier in flavor profile than blanc or dry vermouths. Next in order of sweetness is blanc vermouth, usually made from a white wine base. Finally, dry or white vermouth is the driest of the three. It’s the type of vermouth used in Martinis.

For more information on vermouth, head to my guide: A Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Vermouth.

Since vermouth is already aromatized, we are simply adding more layers of complexity to the vermouth by infusing it with mulling spices.

The History of Mulled Wine

There are records of wine combined with spices for consumption as far back as the Romans. It was probably a handy way to salvage less-than-stellar wine to make it acceptable for consumption. They tended to add honey, dates, and some spices (like pepper, laurel, and saffron).

It was common throughout the middle ages as well. In the 12th and 13th centuries, recipes were recorded for wine infused with spices, known as spicy wine. 

Later, in the 1890s its popularity spread as it became associated with Christmas and appeared frequently at the Christmas Markets prevalent across Europe. In fact, many countries have their own preferred version of mulled wine. 

Today we have Nordic versions, called glögg, German versions called glüwein, and many, many more. From https://www.aveine.paris/blog/en/the-mulled-wine-origins-and-preparation-advice/

  • “Traditional method: red wine, cinnamon, oranges and brown sugar.
  • Alsatian style: with local white wine, Riesling or Pinot Blanc.
  • Swedish style (and all over Scandinavia): with red wine, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. Sometimes vodka, aquavit or brandy are also added.
  • Latvian style: by adding Black Balsam, a black liqueur from Riga.
  • Hungarian style: using local wine, Egri Bikaver, as well as cinnamon and cloves.
  • Bulgarian style: by adding honey, apples and citrus fruits.
  • Moldavian style: called Izvar, it is composed of local red wine, pepper and honey.
  • Polish style: made from hot beer and accompanied by the traditional ingredients of mulled wine (fruit, spices). It is called Piwo Grzane.”

Personally, seeing this list makes me want to head out and make a batch of each to compare them. 

Flavors in this Mulled Vermouth

Christmas Mulled Vermouth with mulled spice in a jar with sweet vermouth and loose spices in the background
Christmas Mulled Vermouth

For this recipe of mulled vermouth, I stuck to traditional spices used in mulled wine in the US, just cinnamon, cardamom, clove, allspice, and star anise. 

Instead of adding oranges or orange peel to the vermouth, I decided to add orange via bitters when used in cocktails, or via orange slices when used in spritzes.

Because I’m a whiskey girl, I infused sweet vermouth with these spices, but I think adding them to dry vermouth and then using that with some Christmas-spiced gin would make an amazing martini. Instead of an olive, perhaps a twist of lemon and orange together as a garnish.

How to Make Christmas Mulled Vermouth

Christmas Mulled Vermouth with mulled spice in a jar with sweet vermouth and loose spices in the background
Christmas Mulled Vermouth

If you haven’t done an infusion of spirits before, vermouth is a perfect way to get started. In infusions with spirits and wines, the alcohol strips away some active aromatic compounds. It absorbs parts of the infusing elements that contribute smell, taste, and color and adds those to the spirit that’s doing the infusing. 

Creating infused vermouth with strong whole spices like cinnamon, allspice, clove, and star anise doesn’t take long to absorb the flavors of the spices. It takes about 12 hours for cloves and about 24 hours for everything else (with the ratio of spice to vermouth that I use in this recipe).

To make the mulled vermouth, I add the cracked cinnamon sticks and slightly bruised spices to a pint jar and add 2 cups of vermouth. I place it in the fridge to infuse. After 12 hours I strain out the cloves, and I leave everything else in for another 12 to 24 hours.

Tips and Tricks to Make the Mulled Christmas Vermouth

Christmas Manhattan cocktail with orange garnish and star anise with spices around it
Christmas Manhattan Cocktail

Doing something a few times (I usually test a recipe like this about 3 times or more – until I get it right for me) always helps me find easier or faster ways to get the same results. In this case, there are a few tips I’ll share to help your vermouth infusions:

Fresh Spices Make a Difference

Like any other culinary endeavor, the end result depends on the quality of the elements you use to build it. Use whole spices that are fresh and haven’t been languishing in the back of your pantry for 2 years. 

Taste Every 8 to 12 Hours

With strong spices like clove and cinnamon, you can easily overpower the other elements in the infusion if you’re not careful. I check every 8 to 12 hours, and more frequently as the flavor peaks. You want to pull out spices before they overstay their welcome.

Timing Will Differ Based on the Vermouth

If you’re working with vermouth with a lot of strong flavors, like Carpano Antica, you’ll likely need more time for the infusion than if you are infusing into something like a Dolin Rouge or Noilly Prat. The Dolin rouge and Noilly Prat flavors are a little lighter and less deep than the Carpano, so flavors don’t take quite as long to shine through.

If you choose to use a blanc or white vermouth, two things will happen. 

First, the color of the vermouth will be affected a bit. You’re likely to get a slight brown or dark red hue from the cinnamon, clove, and allspice color.

Second, the flavors in dry vermouth tend to be a bit more delicate, so you won’t need as much time to create an infusion with the same level of flavor as you would sweet vermouth.

Store the Infusion in the Fridge

Like any opened vermouth, you want to store this in the fridge. Flavors might continue to develop a little bit for a day or two, as the infusion ages a bit, but make sure you keep it refrigerated as you do all opened vermouth.

How to Use this in a Cocktail

Christmas Manhattan cocktail with orange garnish and star anise with spices around it
Christmas Manhattan Cocktail

There are so many fantastic vermouth cocktails to use this in, but I’ll just list six of my favorite cocktails with sweet vermouth:

Manhattan

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz Mulled Christmas vermouth
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Garnish: orange peel/cocktail cherry
  • Method: stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish.

Martinez

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • 1.5 oz mulled Christmas vermouth
  • 1 bar spoon Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Garnish: orange peel
  • Method: stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish.

Old Pal

  • 1.5 oz rye whiskey
  • ¾ oz mulled sweet Christmas vermouth
  • ¾ oz mulled dry Christmas vermouth
  • Garnish: lemon twist
  • Method: stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish.

Negroni

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz mulled sweet Christmas vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • Garnish: orange twist
  • Method: stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish.

Boulevardier

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • ¾ oz mulled sweet Christmas vermouth
  • ¾ oz Campari
  • Garnish: orange twist
  • Method: stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish.

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Christmas Mulled Vermouth with mulled spice in a jar with sweet vermouth and loose spices in the background

Christmas Mulled Vermouth

Heather Wibbels
This holiday infusion of your favorite vermouth puts a festive spin on any great cocktail containing vermouth, from a Manhattan to a Martinez to a Martini. Make a full batch, you’ll use it up in no time.
5 from 1 vote
Infusion Duration 1 d
Total Time 1 d
Course Drinks
Cuisine winter cocktail
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups of your favorite sweet vermouth
  • 4 cinnamon sticks, cracked
  • 10 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 3 star anise
  • ½ tablespoon whole clove, bruised
  • ½ tablespoon whole allspice, bruised

Instructions
 

  • Add vermouth and whole spices to a clean jar and agitate. Make sure the vermouth covers the top of the whole spices.
  • Seal the jar and store in the fridge.
  • Check flavors every 8-12 hours.
  • After 8-12 hours remove the clove. This may vary depending on how fresh your clove spice is.
  • Once the desired flavor profile is reached, strain out the whole spices. I infused for 24 hours.
  • Store the mulled vermouth in the fridge.
Keyword allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, infusion, star anise, sweet vermouth
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on December 13th, 2021

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey enthusiast (Executive Bourbon Steward, no less) with a passion for cocktails. She loves researching and designing cocktails, drinking cocktails, and teaching cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location

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