ROOTS DEEP IN TRADITION
VERMOUTH FAMILY T R E E

ROOTS DEEP IN TRADITION
VERMOUTH FAMILY
TREE

What is vermouth?

Made for centuries in the Mediterranean countries that share a wine production history, the tinctures that we today know as vermouth, were largely a collection of local vegetation – herbs, flowers and other botanicals all infused into a wine and grape spirit concoction.  Recipes were prized local secrets, but some of these received notoriety beyond the confines of the village and became the commercial vermouths we know today.

 The history of Caperitif – a global blow by blow…

  • Centuries ago, in an Italy far away and all over the Mediterranean at a time when life was simple and good… Vermouth was born to many a small Mediterranean village and imbibed as a medicinal tincture – the alcohol was distilled from any fruity concoction (mostly grape-based) and infused with all manner of botanicals, mostly those that grew wild on the slopes of the village hills.
  • Early 1900’s clever folks in South Africa (still a Union at the time and a very pioneering place) began to manufacture vermouth. Distilling local wine and lobbing in a host of indigenous and cultivated botanicals – the Caperitif had arrived courtesy of the Castle Wine and Spirits Company.
  • Into the 20th Century… Locals in South Africa began to rave about their gem of a drink and the word soon spread to all four corners of the then Empire that a drink of real substance was now on the scene.
  • To the 1920’s and the United States of America, where prohibition hit hard and the production of crafted alcoholic drinks went underground and cocktails became a real thing.
  • To London now at the time of prohibition, where the ever-savvy Savoy Hotel began to serve the Caperitif vermouth in their legendary American Bar as a critical ingredient in many SA inspired cocktails, all named for the heroes and villains of the day. Soon it was a feature of the bartender’s bible – the Savoy Cocktail Book – and the likes of Jan Smuts, Barney Barnato and Cecil J. Rhodes were amongst those further immortalized as cocktail recipes.
  • In the 1940’s we head back to South Africa where other issues began to take centre stage and the production of vermouth was flooded under a tidal wave of beer. Our vermouth production eventually ceased all together in the 1960’s.
  • Enter a new century and a Danish model and mixologist who discovered the Caperitif ingredient in name only, whilst thumbing through his copy of the Savoy Cocktail Book. His curiosity was peeked and he began a journey of rediscovery.
  • Arrive a South African wine maker who, via the via, was found by our mixologist and the pair struck up a friendship and a partnership. Their love child: the reborn Caperitif.
  • Centuries ago, in an Italy far away and all over the Mediterranean at a time when life was simple and good… Vermouth was born to many a small Mediterranean village and imbibed as a medicinal tincture – the alcohol was distilled from any fruity concoction (mostly grape-based) and infused with all manner of botanicals, mostly those that grew wild on the slopes of the village hills.
  • Early 1900’s clever folks in South Africa (still a Union at the time and a very pioneering place) began to manufacture vermouth. Distilling local wine and lobbing in a host of indigenous and cultivated botanicals – the Caperitif had arrived courtesy of the Castle Wine and Spirits Company.
  • Into the 20th Century… Locals in South Africa began to rave about their gem of a drink and the word soon spread to all four corners of the then Empire that a drink of real substance was now on the scene.
  • To the 1920’s and the United States of America, where prohibition hit hard and the production of crafted alcoholic drinks went underground and cocktails became a real thing.
  • To London now at the time of prohibition, where the ever-savvy Savoy Hotel began to serve the Caperitif vermouth in their legendary American Bar as a critical ingredient in many SA inspired cocktails, all named for the heroes and villains of the day. Soon it was a feature of the bartender’s bible – the Savoy Cocktail Book – and the likes of Jan Smuts, Barney Barnato and Cecil J. Rhodes were amongst those further immortalized as cocktail recipes.
  • In the 1940’s we head back to South Africa where other issues began to take centre stage and the production of vermouth was flooded under a tidal wave of beer. Our vermouth production eventually ceased all together in the 1960’s.
  • Enter a new century and a Danish model and mixologist who discovered the Caperitif ingredient in name only, whilst thumbing through his copy of the Savoy Cocktail Book. His curiosity was peeked and he began a journey of rediscovery.
  • Arrive a South African wine maker who, via the via, was found by our mixologist and the pair struck up a friendship and a partnership. Their love child: the reborn Caperitif.

A little bit about the Cape Floral Kingdom from which we source our ingredients…

Botanists have classified areas that contain particular types of plants across the globe into Floral Kingdoms. The Swartland falls within the Cape Floral Kingdom – the most diverse of the 6 kingdoms and the only one that is contained within one country.  The Cape Floral Kingdom has almost 3 times as many species as the South American rainforests, the second most diverse region.  Whilst only occupying 1% of the African continent, the Cape Floral Kingdom contains 20% of the plant species in Africa.  It is from this kingdom that we source the many aromatic and flavoursome botanicals.

Acorus calamus (Kalmoes)

Not indigenous to the Swartland area, but found on the farm (indeed it lends its name to the home of Caperitif – Kalmoesfontein) is the Kalmoes (Acorus calamus), a native of India, southern Russia, central Asia and Siberia.

The leaves of this plant have been used for centuries as amedicinal cure, the rhizome dried and ground to a powder as a substitute for ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg and an extract has been used to flavour pipe tobacco. The bible makes reference to its use and poets, including Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau often alluded to the plant’s connection to love, lust and affection.

With that information and when we found it growing wild on the farm we call home – “Kalmoesfontein” (the spring that harbours Kalmoes), it was clear that the Acorus calamus was to become a key component of the Caperitif.

Unfortunately the Americans and their Food and Drug Administration decided in the 1960’s that extracts of the Acorus calamus could not be used in foodstuffs, so our American bottling’s are infused separately without Kalmoes and instead we use a dash more cinnamon for these batches.

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