Jul 18, 2022 - Food and Drink

Dumpster Juice makers to open Philly's first "vermouthery" in 2023

A hand holding up a bottle of the first batch of Dumpster Juice vermouth under the Fell to Earth label.
The first batch of Dumpster Juice vermouth bottled under the Fell to Earth label. Photo: Alexa Mencia/Axios

Dumpster Juice — a line of craft vermouth that Philadelphia's Bloomsday Cafe launched during the pandemic — is getting its own production space, pegged to be the city's first "vermouthery."

Driving the news: Bloomsday announced last week the launch of Fell to Earth, a new business that will produce the aperitif wine out of a South Philadelphia warehouse as early as next year.

How it started: Bloomsday owner Zach Morris has been experimenting with vermouth-making at home for over a decade, a hobby he shares with the cafe's general manager Tim Kweeder, who now owns Fell to Earth.

  • When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf offered restaurants and bars a lifeline during the pandemic by permitting them to sell cocktails to go, Morris and Kweeder had an opportunity to make and sell bottles of vermouth from the cafe.
  • "It was like a hobby gone mad during the pandemic," Morris told Axios.

Between the lines: Under the temporarily loosened rules, Dumpster Juice found a following in the city. They'd announce new batches by posting on Instagram and sell out within hours.

  • But once the General Assembly overrode Wolf's disaster declaration in June 2021, ending the cocktails-to-go program, Morris said they had to find a winery to produce the vermouth in order to be in compliance with alcohol sale laws.
  • Since then, Dumpster Juice has been produced entirely at Vox Vineti Winery in Lancaster County.

The intrigue: Most of the ingredients combined and bottled into Dumpster Juice are locally grown or foraged and help reduce waste (hence, the name). Dumpster Juice is currently made from wines that Vox Vineti's owner doesn't want to bottle and sell, Morris said.

  • It's then fortified with a spirit from a Pennsylvania distillery and flavored with local ingredients. The eighth batch, which was released on Friday at $45 a bottle, uses juniper, black raspberry and hibiscus from Lancaster County's Green Meadow Farm.

The big picture: Experts are noticing a revived interest in fortified wines across the U.S., as more drinkers prefer natural flavors and value conscious consumption.

  • "There's a fervor in the American market to try new vermouths," Morris said.

What to expect: Once the production facility gets up and running, which is expected to happen next year, Fell to Earth will focus on fulfilling wholesale orders for restaurants, wine shops and other businesses.

  • Until then, new vermouth batch drops will continue to be announced on Instagram and available for purchase at Bloomsday.
  • They're also in conversation with vineyards outside of the Philadelphia area that may have wine they don't want to use that could make for future collaborations.

1 (space) oddity to go: Fell to Earth might sound familiar. Kweeder and Morris are both massive David Bowie fans, and "The Man Who Fell to Earth," in which the musician plays an alien, is one of their favorite films.

  • Morris said it evokes good imagery — "falling to Earth, scrounging on the ground for interesting ingredients, botanicals, herbs."
  • "I think it paints a nice picture, tells a story without being too forceful," he said.
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