With the ascendance of vermouth brands like Dolin, Carpano Antica, and several newcomers hitting the market, it seemed that the venerable Martini & Rossi had lost ground in the eyes of of the cocktail cognoscenti. This year, in conjunction with the celebration of the Turin-based company's 150th anniversary, they've decided to take the fight to the bar with the release of the new limited edition Gran Lusso Vermouth.
The base wine—Barbera from Piedmont—immediately sets the bar high for this vermouth—the depth and complexity of the wine creates a strong canvas to work with. The Barbera is blended with some white wine (Trebbiano from Emilia-Romagna) to bring a little extra crispness to the party. Finally, to fortify and flavor the elixir, they add an oak-aged Moscato must extract, as well as a secret botanical concoction based on a recipe from 1904, which has rested in glass demijohns for 8 years (!) to mellow and settle.
The result is beautiful. Subtly sweet, bitter, rich, dark, complex, and spicy, it's everything a sweet vermouth should be. It's more fruit-forward than Carpano and more full-bodied than Dolin, with a strong presence for a fruity Negroni, but perhaps a bit too much character for a Manhattan. It's really best served chilled or on the rocks with an orange or grapefruit twist.
There are 150,000 bottles of this stuff available at $30 a liter—pretty much in line with other premium vermouths. Kudos to Martini & Rossi for continuing to innovate halfway into their second century.
Do you have a favorite new (or old) vermouth?
About the author: Andrew Strenio is a lover of all things potable. Since sneaking his grandmother's bourbon balls, he's moved on to touring distilleries and sipping snifters. He works by day making documentary television and films as an independent producer in Brooklyn.
Tasting sample provided for review consideration.