In line with my summery post earlier this week (we popped our first rosé wine this year, see here), I figured I share another of my favorite summer drinks, a Martini Bianco. I am not referring to the mixed drink “Martini” but rather to the brand Martini, an Italian producer of Vermouth. It is short for Martini & Rossi and has an iconic label that many people recognize (featured on the bottle pictured above). I guess the posts say a lot about how glad I am that this long Midwestern winter is finally coming to a close…
Vermouth is a fortified wine that is flavored with various ingredients like roots, barks, spices and seeds. It was first commercialized in Northern Italy, Turin to be exact, in the 18th century, but its roots go way back. It was first used as a medical drink and later became a key ingredient in cocktails, hence the name of the ubiquitous martini. Apparently (I am reading this up in various sources), Vermouth is made from rather neutral tasting grapes that are fermented to wine, to which further alcohol is added along with each producer’s secret set of ingredients. It comes in usually two styles, dry or sweet. Most people know it as dry, the sweet versions have sugar added to them after they have been fortified. Vermouth has a rather bitter taste to it, which makes it a great ingredient in cocktails. France and Italy are the main producers.
Martini & Rossi, the company of which I buy my Vermouth, started its operations in the mid-19th century in Turin. Its logo was first introduced in 1929 (I really, really love the logo) and merged with the rum conglomerate Bacardi in 1993. Some of you might have noticed that Martini is offering several different bottles of its Vermouth in stores. One usually finds the Extra dry Martini in a green bottle, the Martini Rosso, a red version vermouth, a Martini Rosato, a pinkish, sweet version that tastes like Christmas and the one I am talking about right now, Martini Bianco, their sweet white vermouth.
I fell in love with this drink a long time ago. I don’t enjoy sparkling wine very much, a classic starter in Germany, so this was a really great alternative. To me, it is the perfect apéritif on a hot day because it provides freshness, some sweetness (which by now pretty much everyone knows I love) and has an appetizing bitterness to it that makes your mouth water. I started from the welcome combination of sweet and bitter but it definitely needed an acidic kick to help. So I added a slice of lemon peel and the juice of between a third and half a lemon. I am not shy with the lemon juice because I want the acidity to really kick in. I serve it on the rocks, because the melting ice nicely dilutes what would usually be too sweet a drink. Keep the bottle in the freezer to ensure it pours ice cold and you have an awesome starter for a great evening. The bottles retail for between $6 and $9, I tend to buy them when I see them on sale…Nina has fallen in love with this drink as well, and I am sometimes surprised how fast we can go through a bottle…But even if you don’t guzzle it like us, it keeps forever in the fridge, too.
And here the recipe again in bullet points, it’s as easy as it gets:
1 strip of lemon peel
Fill a glass with two to three ice cubes. Squeeze a third of a lemon over the ice. Throw in lemon peel. Pour the Martini Bianco over. Let sit for 5 minutes. Enjoy.
Do you have a favorite apéritif? Care to share?