This winter I went off menu a little with three different vinegars with mulled wine, negroni and IPA vinegars.

The first one started resulted from a visitor who opened a bottle of wine, had a glass and fell asleep. This left me with about 700 mL of red wine and few chances to finish the bottle. My thought was vinegar, but with nearly a gallon of red wine vinegar in the larder, I had no use for it. It was January and I had just finished reading the Game of Thrones books where mulled wine is basically a character, so I made a batch of mulled wine and tossed in a vinegar mother.

The flavors of mulled wine – the baking spices, oranges, and honey – were all over the finished, strained vinegar. The sharpness was strong as well, so I laid it down for all of April and will continue to rest it to mellow that sharpness. Come next winter, this might make a good drinking vinegar, but will certainly be great with fruit or squash next fall.

The next vinegar was made in the style of the Negroni. The drink is the cocktail de jour and you can’t log onto twitter or instagram without seeing negroni this or that. This drink made from gin, vermouth and bitters is a study in complex, bittersweet flavors. It is everywhere, but being ubiquitous doesn’t mean it tastes less than delicious I like bitter and tart together, so I thought of trying to turn a cocktail into a vinegar.

The problem is the alcohol content would kill the vinegar mother overnight. I had to get creative, so I made myself two drinks to help me think about it. I drank the first and poured the second into the crock. Then I applied thoughts from my negroni-limbered mind and made a syrup with a bunch of juniper, coriander and other gin flavors, added it to the crock to mimic the gin, then added some more vermouth (in equal parts as the gin syrup), and finally added a few bottles of Chinotto, a bitter soda which tastes like Campari to me.

With the alcohol content in check, this mixture soured for three months and came out bitter forward with late gin flavors. It doesn’t have the alcoholic fortification of a negroni, which admittedly is a big aspect, but with a little imagination you can pinpoint the inspiration.

The final vinegar was made from a six pack of IPA. Making vinegar from beer is a slam dunk and this was no different. If you are a rookie vinegar maker, start with beer. In a few weeks, acetobacters were growing like crazy. At three months, the vinegar was everything you look for and a little more. It tasted like beer and it tasted like a really sharp vinegar.

I immediately put the IPA vinegar to good use in a batch of picked ramps with ballpark mustard. Beer, mustard and ramps sound pretty perfect on a sausage or a burger, so why not make the pickles with the special sauce instead of into the sauce?

Beer and Mustard Pickled Ramps

1 cup IPA or any Beer Vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup ballpark mustard
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 quart ramp bulbs

Step one: Combine all non-ramp ingredients into a sauce pan. Whisk to incorporate mustard. Heat to a boil

Step two: Remove from heat and add ramps. When cooled to room temp, add to a quart jar, top and chill.