These picks from cocktail pros will change the way you think about this fortified wine.
Curating the perfect bottles for your home bar takes time, patience, and attention to detail—vermouth, however, tends to be overlooked in that process, with many settling for the familiar labels that once collected dust on their parents’ and grandparents’ shelves. And that’s perhaps just the issue: to date, dry and sweet vermouths have been respectively relegated to the occasional splash in homemade martinis and Manhattans when, in reality, they’re both capable of so much more.
Vermouth is a fortified wine (think sherry, Port, or Madeira) that’s been taken a step further by being infused with a variety of botanical ingredients like spices, herbs, roots, flowers, and more. Most associate vermouth as a whole with Martini & Rossi, which is one of the largest and most well-known brands in the business, though there are many other producers throughout the Old and New Worlds, and each producer’s recipe differs from one to the next. If you haven’t yet tried other vermouths outside of the Martini & Rossi family, you’re in for a whole new landscape of flavors, colors, textures, and more.
Sweet vermouth in particular has been one of my favorite categories to explore, especially when making low-ABV cocktails at home, either for myself on a low-key weeknight or for a crowd as a dinner party apéritif, batched ahead of time and poured for each guest as they file through the door. I can’t resist opening friends’ and acquaintances’ eyes (and, let’s be honest, the occasional perfect stranger’s) to somewhat obscure classic fortified wine cocktails like the Adonis, which couldn’t be easier to make on the fly. The perfect collision of dry sherry, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a twist of orange or lemon, give this late-19th century drink and its ilk a serious chance of becoming your new favorite way to deplete your vermouth stash, before it starts to sour.
Best Italian: Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Rubino Vermouth
Region: Torino, Italy | ABV: 18% | Tasting Notes: Red fruits, sandalwood, herbs, cracked pepper
● New release
● Higher price point than its classic counterpart
Why we chose it: We all know the classic Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth, but this new expression is a serious step up.
Federico Doldi, Beverage Director of New York hotel Gansevoort Meatpacking, shares his go-to sweet vermouth pick: “I personally prefer the artisanal Martini Rubino vermouth of the Martini & Rossi family, a rich complex vermouth Di Torino that is based on a famed 150-year-old recipe. I chose to feature Martini Rubino in the Negroni alongside Martini bitter-infused coffee beans, Bombay Sapphire gin, and lemon essence at Coffee + Cocktails at Gansevoort Meatpacking. Blending select wines with artemisia and red sandalwood botanicals, it makes a perfect addition to any classic cocktail.”