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Spirits: Bonus aperitivo news

As I discuss Sunday in the Travel section, I spent much of this week “stuck” in Italy, waiting for the Icelandic volcanic ash to clear from the skies. And by that I mean I was secretly hoping the volcano would keep spewing its ash forever. Anyway, I spent most of my time blissfully kicking around the Veneto. Do not cry for me.

Caption. (Nike Communications)

While I was “stranded,” it was brought to my attention that classic, red bitter Campari is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. I’ve written many times of my appreciation of Campari, and because I didn’t have anything else pressing to do I felt the need to celebrate Davide Campari’s creation. Even in Milan and Rome, bartenders are generally a conservative lot: They do the same basic cocktails without much variation. But I managed to teach a few of those I met that Campari mixes very well with real bourbon (not Jack Daniel's, like you find so much of on Italian back bars) and with real 100 percent agave tequila (not Cuervo Gold, same reason).

All of this coincided nicely with my column on Wednesday, which focused on European aperitifs: old favorites such as Lillet Blanc, newly available ones such as Bonal and Cocchi Americano and ones that I hope someday will be available, such as Zucca and Suze.

As it turns out, another Italian favorite will soon be available in the States this spring: Martini Rosato. By now, cocktail enthusiasts hopefully already know of Martini’s three styles of vermouths on the market:dry, sweet, and bianco. In Italy, the bianco vermouth is so popular at bars during aperitivo hour that it sits chilled in the rail. If you happen to order a martini in Italy, you’d better clarify whether you want a glass of vermouth or our gin standby.

Anyway, Martini Rosato is a slightly different character than the vermouths. It’s pink, first of all (thus the name) and it’s an odd fruity-spicy experience. I first tasted Rosato when I visited Martini three years ago in Pessione, Italy, and thought it had notes of raspberry with a cinnamon-clove-nutmeg thing going on. I’ve actually seen it consumed in Scandinavia just as much as I’ve seen Italians drinking it.

Rosato will certainly be inexpensive, at around $10, but it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It's pretty cloying if you don't keep it super chilled. People who like sweeter wines and pink drinks will enjoy it. Regardless, it makes me happy every time another an impossible-to-find spirit is available, so cheers to Martini on that.

-- Jason Wilson (Follow me on Twitter.)

By The Food Section  |  April 23, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Spirits  | Tags: Jason Wilson, Spirits  
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