Making Ki's Signature Japanese Vermouth

Making Ki's Signature Japanese Vermouth

Written by Michael Tremblay

While vermouth is a cocktail ingredient regularly used throughout the seasons, I find it truly comes into its own during the autumn and winter season, particularly red vermouth with its campfire-like warm aromas of herbs and spices.  There are many uses for this aromatic fortified wine, from providing key aromas and flavours in cocktails like the Manhattan, Boulevardier, Negroni and Martini to cooking up a whole host of pasta, chowders, desserts, and even compotes and jams.  Vermouth typically comes in white, dry or red (sweet) and are staples of any bar.   While it is typically comprised of infused wine that has been fortified with spirit, our creative team at Ki decided to take advantage of some of the unique ingredients found in the Japanese kitchen to create a Japanese version we could use in our cocktails.  In addition, we eschewed the wine and brandy and chose sake and shochu from our extensive list.  It has been wildly popular and thus are happy to share the recipe with anyone wanting to try making their own version.  It is perfect for crafting a unique twist on a classic cocktail at your holiday party or to use in your next batch of barrel-aged cocktails.  It's not hard to make, and finding all of the botanicals, roots, and spices can be challenging but relatively easy to source in St. Lawrence or Kensington markets if you reside in Toronto.

Here's what you will need to get started:

- a 1-litre mason jar (for making your vermouth)

- a bottle ( can always pour the final liquid back into the mason jar)

- Strainer

- Funnel


Ingredients (Makes 1 Litre):

1 Vanilla bean pod

1 Cinnamon stick

1/2 Licorice root

1/2 Wormwood / angelica root (optional)

1 tsp Cloves

1 tsp Green cardamom

1 tsp Juniper berries

1 tsp Dried lemon peel

1 tsp Whole coriander seeds

1/2 tsp Fennel seeds

7 Star anise

4 Black cardamon

1 Whole nutmeg

Fresh orange peel (from 1 medium sized orange)

Fresh lemon peel (from half of a medium sized lemon)

Fresh yuzu peel (from half of a medium sized yuzu fruit.  Alterntaively, use 1 tbsp of frozen yuzu rind)

8 Kinome leaves

t tsp Whole Japanese sansho pepper

3 cups rice or kasutori shochu (we use Masumi "Sumi" Kasutori shochu at Ki)

1 cup of Junmai sake (we use Masumi "Okuden Kanzukuri" Junmai at Ki) **Do not use a Ginjo, Daiginjo or Futsu-shu in this recipe.  You need the umami from using a good quality Junmai since you are only using 1 cup**



Note: For the sake of simplicity, microwaving the sake and shochu for the infusion can be easily done.  Alternatively, bringing the ingredients to a boil in a pot on the stove works well but takes a little longer.

1) Place all DRY ingredients in the jar.  Add the sake.  Microwave for 2 minutes uncovered (until liquid is bubbling).  Screw the cap on the jar and let stand / infuse for 10 minutes.  

2) Open the jar and add the shochu.  Microwave for 2 minutes uncovered (until liquid is bubbling).  Screw the cap on the jar and let stand / infuse for another 10 minutes.  

3) Open the jar and strain liquid into a pot or bottle, removing all herbs, spices and peels.  Let cool.

4) Sweeten (to taste) with maple syrup, honey or caramel.  If you are using in a cocktail, you may want to keep it unsweetened and adjust for this when making the cocktail.  

This vermouth is aromatic and perfect for the fall / winter season!  If you prefer trying this vermouth in a cocktail but prefer avoiding the trouble of making your own, come to Ki where we use it in our Japanese Boulevardier (with Buffalo Trace bourbon), Barrel-Aged Japanese Boulevardier (with Iwai Tradition Japanese whisky), or the Onsen, a hot sake cocktail.