First released in 1863, Martini & Rossi Rosso is claimed to be the oldest vermouth. Arguably, Carpano Antica is said to be made using the same 1786 recipe. However, I won’t be getting involved in that debate. Martini Rosso is made from red wine that’s taken on an amber colour thanks to natural caramel. It also features over 50 herbs and spices that are steeped into the wine as it’s aged in oak barrels.
As mentioned earlier, Martini Rosso has a slightly dark amber hue. The liquid is clear with only a slight haziness probably brought on by the botanicals and the caramel. Similarly, it has good viscosity. It’s syrupy and produces scallops when you swirl it in your glass.
Martini Rosso’s Nose
Notes: Dried Fruit, Agarwood, Bay Leaf
Rosso’s nose is quite faint when you just take it out of the fridge. Therefore, it’s worth letting it warm up for a few minutes beforehand. The bouquet is dominated by dried fruit and raisin in particular. There are also notes of agarwood, a resin also known as oud, which is known for its oriental tobacco and vanilla smell. A distinctive bay leaf aroma is also present.
Martini Rosso’s Palate & Mouthfeel
Primary Taste: Sweet
Opening: Honey, Raisin, Caramel
Heart: Anise, Kola Nut, Nutmeg
Finish: Moderate [Quinine, Pepper, Oak]
Martini Rosso has an overall sweet primary flavour but it develops bitterness as you sample it. Its mouthfeel is oily and envelops the palate before leaving a dry and eucalyptic finish.
The opening is reminiscent of Modena vinegar. It’s thick, sweet, and flavoursome. Elements of honey, raisin, and caramel embrace the tongue. As these fade, it reveals a heart dominated by kola nut. It’s sweet yet slightly bitterer than the famous soft drink. Meanwhile, spices such as anise and nutmeg add substance to the experience.
As you get to the finish and it begins to evaporate from the palate, it delivers a large dose of quinine, pepper, and oak. The vinous tannin elements may also reveal themselves.
While perhaps not the most complex vermouth on the market, Martini Rosso performs well for the price. Its flavour may not be particularly intense but it offers a variety of aromas from different families.
Furthermore, it’s harmonious and balanced on the palate. It doesn’t cause any excessive salivation or dryness with the tannins offsetting any acidity. Its finish is moderate and lasts just long enough on the tongue for you to want to reach another glass.
How To Drink Martini Rosso
It’s at this point that we systematically emphasize that the best way to drink something is the way that you enjoy it. However, if you’re unfamiliar with Martini Rosso, we can offer a few serving suggestions.
Firstly, Martini Rosso is quite pleasant neat. If this is how you wish to drink it, I suggest that you have it chilled or over ice. As mentioned above, let it warm up for a few minutes after taking it out of the fridge. However, avoid having it at room temperature as its flavours may become overly alcoholic.
Personally, I’m quite fond of simply drinking it in a small wine glass as an apéritif while preparing dinner. For more serving suggestions, simply head to our full vermouth guide!
Meanwhile, it’s a celebrated and integral part of many cocktails, which I detail below.
As I said earlier, Martini Rosso is a staple in many cocktails. If you need a few ideas, here are some of my favourite Martini Rosso cocktails:
Indeed, Martini Rosso is synonymous with Negroni. Although you can use better vermouth, it does the job marvelously and complements the Campari without imparting too much bitterness. Of course, other classics include the Manhattan and Americano. Otherwise, just topping up Martini Rosso with soda water can make a refreshing spritz.
Best Pairings With Martini Rosso
As I said earlier, Martini Rosso is a great apéritif drink so why not opt with antipasti? Its sweet and savoury properties pair nicely with prosciutto and melon with a drizzle of Modena balsamic vinegar. Alternatively, consider tomatoes stuffed with mozzarella, aubergine caviar, or even courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta.
Conversely, it pairs well with dessert. For instance, you could have it alongside fruit sorbet or vanilla ice cream.
Finally, we’re fond of cigars at Bespoke Unit so I noted a few possibilities. The Oliva Connecticut Reserve is a good choice. While Connecticut cigars are known for their creamy mouthfeel, Oliva’s version is a little nuttier.
Overall Experience & Value For Money
The timeless Martini bottle embodies the “Dolce Vita” lifestyle concept with its unique curves and pressed glass lettering. The white label contrast against the red liquid that appears black in the green glass. It comes as it is without any packaging.
As noted above, it’s a versatile drink that can be used for many classic cocktails. Nevertheless, creative mixologists can easily find new ways to enjoy it. Although not a particularly luxurious vermouth, it stills fits well into formal occasions. However, its low price point means that it’s great for casual drinking too.
In the USA, you can expect to pay between $15 to $19 for a 75 cl. Bottles are available in different sizes. For instance, the one in this review is 50 cl whereas you can buy litre bottles as well. In Europe, a 75 cl bottle costs just $9, which is about the same as a budget-friendly Burgundy red.
Easy enough to drink neat with many pairing and cocktail options, Martini Rosso is a classic vermouth that merits a place in everybody’s cellar or fridge. Given its low price point, it’s budget-friendly and won’t break the bank either!
Charles-Philippe's work has covered a broad range of subjects from cigars and fragrances to wine and spirits. Fascinated by how history and culture together form the unique contemporary identities of alcoholic beverages, his articles follow an in-depth exploration of their development through a combination of tradition and innovation.