Tag Archives: quality vermouth

Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Vermouth

Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale

Martini & Rossi is one of the staple names – maybe THE name – in vermouth to most people. It can be found in grocery stores, liquor stores and everywhere in between and is therefore the most likely vermouth you have tried.

I’ve covered at length the proper care vermouth must receive to stay flavorful. In fact, I opened a bottle myself recently to find it only lasted a week or so in the fridge before turning sour. I have also said something here at this very blog that I still stand by: pricier vermouth tastes a lot better than the cheap stuff.

That said, Martini & Rossi has given us a widely-distributed vermouth “upgrade” that’s a pretty smart choice to make if you’re having a night of Martinis or Manhattans. Usually, a bottle of “Martini” will run you about $10, and the Riserva Speciale is about $15-20.

For me, a chilled white vermouth is my favorite to sip with fish, and I’m happy to say that Riserva Ambrato is an excellent vermouth for just this. Serve on the rocks with a lemon peel. It has slightly bitter and dry notes of rosemary and herbs.

Riserva Rubino, the red vermouth in this brand, is great with richer flavors of meat or even my favorite pairing choice: cigars.

If it’s hard to imagine a bottle of vermouth being delicious enough to drink straight, pick up a bottle of Martini Riserva Speciale, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Contratto Vermouth

contratto vermouth

Vermouth is an essential ingredient to many classic cocktails and is one of the first bottles you should buy for your home bar. Vermouth is an aromatized and fortified wine, like Sherry or Port. It lasts longer than wine, but once a bottle of vermouth is opened, it should be used within a month or two and you should keep it in the fridge so it stays fresh.

As I continue to learn more about vermouth, there’s something that you should also know as a home bartender: the difference between good (expensive) vermouth and bad (cheap) vermouth is huge. Cheap vermouths are often overly bitter and pretty abrasive, which has led to dryer and dryer martinis being served in bars (because cheap vermouth that’s long past it’s expiration date is especially awful). As much as my maven nature wants to fight it, it’s time to settle this once and for all: there’s no such thing as a vermouth that’s both good and cheap.

Which brings us to Contratto: a quality Italian vermouth that will run you about $30 a bottle:

Contratto Bianco is their “dry” version, a vermouth with a wonderful sweet citrus flavor – grapefruit with a touch of orange. This vermouth is so good, you should try it on the rocks at the start of a nice fish dinner. For martinis with Bianco, don’t garnish with the traditional olive, but add a lemon twist instead.

Contratto Rosso is a copper/brown and has a stronger, more bitter nose to it. It musky and woody and tastes like cloves, cinnamon, and bitter chocolate. It makes an amazing Manhattan, and yes, this one is also good enough to drink on it’s own. Try it neat with your dessert in the place of port.

Even though I’m very price-sensitive when I shop, I have had enough great vermouth now to know that the extra money spent on a quality bottle of vermouth, like Contratto or Vya, makes such a massive difference in the quality of my home cocktails, it’s impossible to ignore the value of it.