Martini & Rossi, cool and contemporary since 1863, the creators of Cocktail time.

One of the most iconic brands in the world, MARTINI® is Italy’s leading alcoholic beverage producer and offers a range of Aperitivo, Vermouth and sparkling wines of the highest quality. The creation of Vermouth, today the essential ingredient in many classic cocktails, is a deliciously, decadent and inspirational story. 

While fortified wines date back to Ancient Greece, the concept is thought to have been first finely crafted by the distiller, Antonio Benedetto Carpano in Turin in 1786, with his aromatised herbal wine, called Vermouth. Wormwood, also known as absinthe, is the quintessential botanical ingredient of this wine, originally considered a medicinal drink. Wormwood, Wermut in German, translates into vermouth. 

Fast forward to 1847, Pessione, near Turin where “Distilleria Nationale di Spirito di Vino” was founded by Carlo Angelli, Alessandro Martini, Teofilo Sola and Luigi Rossi, to produce wines and liqueurs.  As a wine maker and herbalist, Rossi developed his own Wormwood recipe and is the actual inventor of the Martini brand of vermouth.

Vintage Vermouth bottles

The base formula for any vermouth must be 75% wine – all brands of Martini are dry wines from the regions of Romagna, Apulia and Sicily – with an essence of over 50 herbs and spices and sugar. This Absinthe herb provides the strong, bitter flavour which stimulates the appetite. Vermouths became popular as an Aperitivo, (French – Aperitif), after the Latin verb ‘aperire’, to open, the perfect pre-lunch or dinner drink.

Aperitivo is not a drink, it’s a state of mind” Roberta Mariani, global ambassador for Martini & Rossi.

Their successful export business established branches in Spain, France, Argentina, Romania, Great Britain and the USA and after Sola’s death in 1879, the company was renamed “Martini & Rossi.”   The entrepreneurs were always modern innovators and market leaders.  “Martini Extra Dry”, was first presented at the New Year’s Eve celebration in 1900, and the “Martini Bianco” launched in 1910.  

The famous modern logo was created in 1925, featuring the black name tag “Martini”, superimposed over a red circle, and registered as a trademark in Italy in 1929. 

The Rosso sweet vermouth was first produced in 1863 and it’s said that customers ordering a gin and vermouth would simply ask for a “Gin and Martini.” In America, it evolved into a lady’s tipple, Gin & It, served around 5pm as a pick-me-up.

The classic Gin Martini may have originated at the Occidental Hotel, San Francisco in the 1860s. The bartender, Jerry Thomas was asked to make a memorable cocktail in return for a gold nugget and Jerry named it after the drinker’s home town, Martinez.  The Bar-Tenders Guide, 1887 included the Martinez cocktail – gin, sweet vermouth, bitters, lemon and maraschino liqueur.

More widely accepted is that an Italian bartender, Martini di Arma di Taggia created it at the Knickerbocker Hotel, New York City before World War I. His recipe: dry gin and dry vermouth, in equal parts, and orange bitters.

‘I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized.” Ernest Hemingway

‘The aspirational cocktail Gin Martini, beloved by the rich and famous, has become a timeless classic and the epitome of an Aperitivo.  While the precise recipe is a matter of taste, Martini & Rossi believe this to be the perfect ratio: 50 ml Bombay Sapphire Gin, 15 ml Martini Extra Dry, Lemon peel or olive to garnish.

Fill a mixing glass with ice cubes, pour in the well-chilled vermouth and the gin and stir for about 20 seconds.  Strain into a well-chilled Martini cocktail glass. Twist the peel to release the oils and then add as a garnish – or an olive.

Vermouth has long been integral to other key cocktails shaken up by intrepid bartenders between the 1880s and turn of the century, such as the Adonis, Affinity, Manhattan, Bronx and Americano.

The Americano holds the distinction of being the very first drink James Bond orders in Casino Royale – Campari, Sweet Vermouth and soda water – followed by many strong Gin Martinis on his adventures.

James Bond, a Cocktail aficionado

Cocktail time – L’Aperitivo hour – continues to embody the essence of Italian culture, la dolce vita, worldwide. Always a fashionably cool and contemporary brand since 1960s, Martini & Rossi has now launched a new Vermouth.

Martini Fiero is said to “modernise vermouth for a new generation.” Fiero means proud, intense and bold in Italian and is a blend of crisp white wines and botanicals including Murcia orange peel, artemisia absinthium and artemisia pontica.

The perfect serve is with plenty of ice, a mix of 50/50 Fiero and tonic

Martini Fiero Tonic

75 ml Martini Fiero, 75 ml Tonic water

Pour into a large balloon (red wine) glass with ice. Garnish with blood orange wheel.

Martini Fiero with tonic – refreshingly summery

Fiero is a beautifully balanced vermouth, with sharp, tart citrus notes followed by a honey sweetness, the bitterness mellowed by the sparkling tonic.  A refreshing, ice cold long drink which just needs the final ingredient – a warm dash of Italian summer sun!

Just over a century ago in a small bar in Florence, Count Camillio Negroni asked the bartender to strengthen his favourite cocktail, the Americano. The soda water was replaced by gin, the lemon garnish with orange, and the Negroni was born.  

So now for an important experiment – a blind tasting of two Negroni cocktails, one with the usual Sweet Vermouth Rosso and another with Martini Fiero.

The Rosso-based Negroni is richly bittersweet, more herbal, woody and drier on the palate. The Fiero version has an orange fruitiness, hint of cloves and a complex citrus and spicy aftertaste. 

These two Negronis simply vary in subtlety of flavour but with the Campari shining through, both hit the spot.

The Negroni revamped – Campari, Gin, Martini Fiero

Negroni with Martini Fiero

30 ml Campari, 30 ml Bombay Sapphire dry gin, 30 ml Martini Fiero

Add all ingredients into a stirring glass. Strain into a chilled Old Fashioned tumbler glass with a large chunk of ice. Garnish with an orange twist after expressing the zest.

This is certainly a cocktail to entice the taste buds – sip slowly before lunch or dinner. Saluti!

InFor your Eyes Only, while waiting in the Excelsior Bar in Rome, James Bond orders an aperitif, very wisely, the Negroni.

Martini & Rossi has been masters of the original Vermouth since 1863 and the historical home, Casa Martini, in the village of Pessione, near Turin Northern Italy is open to visitors.  Cocktail lovers will be able to see how the famous Italian vermouth and wines are made on an imaginative new tour.

Casa Martiini, Pessione, Italy

 “We are delighted to welcome guests to Casa MARTINI, the heart of the creation of our products for over 150 years. Discover the ingredients and production secrets of a history full of anecdote, entrepreneurial vision and innovation. The new tour consists of a totally immersive experience, an exciting journey to the origins of the Italian Aperitivo.  Marco Budano, General Manager of Casa MARTINI. 

Visitors will see the “Cabinet of Curiosities,” a display case featuring vintage artefacts, technical equipment and archival documents, a collection which links MARTINI to the world of wine.

The Red Circle is an exciting new installation – an illuminated pathway to give an immersive experience of the whole process from grapes and herbs for the finely selected ingredients.

The Red Circle

Take a trip back in time to the historic Still Area where the original copper stills to make vermouth and sparkling wines in the 19th century are preserved. The Mondo MARTINI Gallery and the Museum of the History of Wine is a comprehensive 360 degree tour to illustrate the company’s inspiring history.

Mondo Martini Gallery

 ‘The Heart of Martini’ today is the modern Still Room with its rows of towering tanks where visitors discover more about the finely crafted production process to perfect the delicious vermouths and wines.

The Heart of Martini in the modern Still Room

And finally, of course, it’s Cocktail time in the Tasting Room where you can try three Martini drinks, in the company of an expert guide. Then end the journey around Casa Martini in the Bar to sip a refreshing Martini Fiero & Tonic.

Martini Time in the Tasting Room and Bar

Find out more about visiting the home of MARTINI here:

www.visitcasamartini.com 

The Martini & Rossi company maintained full control of the brand until 1993 when it merged with Bacardí.  According to International Wines and Spirits Record, it accounts for more than 45 percent of the global vermouth market – Casa Martini sells more vermouth than any other brand in the world. 

www.martini.com

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About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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