It makes whiskey, gin, vodka, and cassis (using B.C. blackcurrants); Odd Society Spirits also makes an artisan vermouth—the only vermouth that’s made in Canada.
“I don’t understand why more places aren’t doing it; there are so many wineries here in B.C.,” says head distiller Gordon Glanz.
Glanz starts out with a Naramata Viognier to make Odd Society’s Italian-style Bittersweet Vermouth. The aromatized, fortified wine, which has an alcohol by volume content of 18 percent and a beautiful amber hue, is fermented on-site at the East Vancouver distillery.
“Vermouth is an extremely complex drink because it has so many botanicals in it,” Glanz says. Odd Society’s version includes wormwood, gentian root, angelica root, rhubarb root, fennel, cassia bark, and other roots, flowers, and spices.
In a unique West Coast twist, this locally produced aperitif also features arbutus bark from a friend’s property on Mayne Island.
“We don’t peel it,” Glanz says of the bark, which lends the vermouth some of its bitter flavour and adds to its colour. “The wind blows it off the trees, and we just pick it from the ground.”
Some styles of vermouth are be very bitter while others are sweet; this one starts out sweet and ends with a bitter note.
Meant to be sipped before a meal to ready the palate for food, the potent drink has its origins in the kingdom of Sardinia. It’s used as an ingredient in several classic and modern drinks, yet even though cocktail culture has exploded here, the ritual of the aperitif has yet to catch on in North America. Maybe that will change with this made-in-Canada concoction. Serve it over ice and you might just have a new favourite libation in your hand.
Odd Society Spirits’ Bittersweet Vermouth is available at private liquor stores and several Vancouver farmers’ markets. A 375-mL bottle retails for $22.