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CrabFest 2023


The Versatility of Vermouth

By Rebecca Weber

Originally dating from the 1700s in Italy, vermouth is currently enjoying a revival throughout the world. Despite enjoying a nice Manhattan out at my local bar for some time, it was a suggestion from our tasting room manager, Neil Maertens, that lead to the idea of making our own vermouth. Initially, I was hesitant, as the process is completely different from making a good wine. While wine must be made from a minimal amount of ingredients (think grapes and yeast), vermouth allows a limitless variety of plants to be included in the blend. The timing was right though because our owner, Jody Elsom, had just started enjoying vermouths and was able to host our first team comparative vermouth tasting from her growing collection. The range and variety of flavors in the types we tried was intriguing so, of course, we had to try more! Most were overwhelmingly sweet; clearly made to be enjoyed mixed in cocktails. A select few were so enjoyable on their own, it became clear that was the style we wanted to make.

There are several methods for performing the extractions. The possibilities were overwhelming at first. Due to the difference in extraction rates and desired concentrations, we opted to extract each component in high-proof spirit separately, then combining in different rates to find our perfect blend. I started by working with over 40 different extracts, which we narrowed down by more than half for the final blend.

Our version starts with a neutral brandy spirit that was distilled from our wines. This spirit was then used to extract flavors from a wide variety of flowers, herbs, roots, bark, spices, and fruits. These extractions were then combined with a base of neutral white wine. Dozens of iterations were tried on the way to developing the final recipe, each time homing in on the flavors and elements that would create a well-rounded fortified wine.

We love the versatility of this vermouth. We've tried it mixed with prosecco, cider, sparkling water, and simply served on the rocks, which were all refreshing and quaffable. Thanks to the positive response we've received with this vermouth, we look forward to running trials for a red vermouth. However, with the grape harvest of 2023 fast approaching, those trials will have to wait.

If you're looking for a great Manhattan, this variation, developed by our friend Sonie Watson, called "Cheers, Betty White!" is a good place to start:


  • 1 oz Elsom Cellars white vermouth
  • 1 oz 2Bar straight bourbon whiskey
  • ¼ oz simple syrup
  • 2-3 dashes orange or cardamom bitters
  • Squeeze of lemon

Stir with ice until chilled. Strain into a glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Rebecca Weber is the winemaker at Elsom Cellars in the SoDo area of Seattle. She graduated in 2006 with a bachelor's in chemical engineering and used it to go to Bordeaux and work at a winery. She has worked in California, South Australia in McLaren Vale, Woodinville to work with Bob Betz, and Austria. She took classes at South Seattle College; her first Washington harvest was in 2011. She was hired in 2014 as winemaker for Elsom Cellars.

Elsom Cellars
2960 4 th Ave South
Seattle, WA 98134

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