June Vermouth Round Up: Dry Vermouth di Torino
Updated: Aug 3, 2022
As the weather warms, I find myself gravitating toward dry vermouth rather than sweet red or white. The lighter, more acidic, typically herbaceous style becomes a staple in the spring months when dry vermouth tastes like the air around me. By summer, I'm content to cool down with nothing but neat vermouth or vermouth cobblers on those super hot days.
I don't tend to reach for Italian dry vermouth simply because I generally prefer Spanish, French, or increasingly, American. That said, when I do go Italian, my favorite Italian dry vermouths (Mancino, Bordiga, and today's offerings) have one thing in common: they are all Vermouth di Torino.
Vermouth di Torino is currently the only geographical designation for vermouth recognized by EU law. The legal protection for the French Vermouth de Chambery 2000 and is no longer recognized by EU law due (apparently) to a dispute between Routin and Dolin, the latter declaring itself the last remaining producer of the style. Similarly, the Spanish recognize Vermouth de Reus as a regional style of vermouth, but the EU does not recognize either as a protected designation of origin (AOC).
Meanwhile, in Italy, Vermouth di Torino and Vermouth di Torino Superior were defined and legally protected by the EU in 2017, thanks to a body of 15 producers called the Vermouth Institute of Turin. Comprised of international mega producers like Martini & Rossi and Cinzano along with Berto, Bordiga, Del Professore, Carlo Alberto, Carpano, Chazalettes, Giulio Cocchi, Drapò, Gancia, La Canellese, Mulassano, Sperone, Torino Distillati, and Tosti, the Vermouth Institute of Turin agreed on the following production rules:
Vermouth di Torino must be produced in Piedmont, Italy, using only Italian wine. It must be between 16% ABV and 22% ABV, mainly bittered with Artemesia, and its sweeteners are limited to sugar, grape must, caramel, and honey. The more rare Vermouth di Torino Superior must use wine from grapes grown in Piedmont for at least 50% of its wine base.
While some of these producers have surely been following these standards all along, it meant that some of the larger producers have since launched "premium" lines of vermouth which allow them to carry the Vermouth di Torino label (again, I'm singling out Martini & Rossi and Cinzano). The often-maligned standard expressions from Martini & Rossi now sit alongside their lauded Ambratto and Rubino Vermouth di Torino counterparts. Similarly, Cinzano launched their 1757 line of vermouths which, unlike their standard Extra Dry, Bianco, and Rosso carry the Vermouth di Torino designation.
Geographical protections like Vermouth di Torino don't automatically ensure a better product, but *spoiler alert* the two bottles below are some of the finest Italian dry vermouths out there.
If you're new to the world of vermouth, check out my Introduction to Vermouth post to learn some basics, introduce yourself to some of the terminology used, and get a general overview of how these guides are structured (and why). Then join me back here to get into the details!
Cinzano 1757 Extra Dry
Wine Base: N/A
Known Botanicals: wormwood
Nose: wormwood, green apple, rhubarb, honeysuckle, lemon, clove, millet, orange, thyme, sage, chrysanthemum
Palate: wormwood, green apple, lemon, cinnamon, coriander, tree bark, marjoram, rosemary, hay
Finish: wormwood, cinnamon, clove, orange, green apple, marjoram, rosemary, mineralic, sea salt
Additional Notes: Vermouth di Torino. Very pale green-tinted straw yellow appearance. Light-bodied with a slightly oily texture. Floral, stemmy, a bit fruity, spicy, salinic, and most importantly, bitter. It's a wonderfully balanced bottle with the perfect amount of acidity. Leans heavily into green apple, wormwood, marjoram, and clove. This is a heck of an upgrade from Cinzano's more commonly found Extra Dry which I find serviceable and little more. A top-notch dry vermouth and one of the best Italian dry vermouths on the market period. Well worth hunting down.
I've been trying to track this particular bottle down for nearly two years. Cinzano 1757 Rosso is easy enough to find, but the Extra Dry is particularly rare in the USA. So was it worth the hunt? Yes!
It's absolutely delicious – I love it. But I also love dry vermouth. This seems like a vermouth for folks who really like vermouth. It's perfectly balanced to the point where it is fantastic enjoyed chilled in a wine glass. It is a dry vermouth I would describe as refined and confident.
It's surprisingly assertive in cocktails. in a standard 2:1 Martini, I found the vermouth to dominate my 94 proof London Dry Gin. This is THE choice for those who prefer very dry Martinis since a little will go a long way.
I'm not normally a huge fan of the Old Pal, but this makes one of my favorite expressions of the drink. And guess what? The original 1:1:1 ratio works better than the more common, contemporary 1.5 oz, .75 oz, .75 oz build. It also makes for a delicious Bamboo and an even better Brazil Cocktail (essentially a Bamboo which substitutes the orange bitters for absinthe and the orange peel garnish for lemon).
This is an exceptional dry vermouth. It is easily one of the most mixable in the category and I say it makes an argument for all the dry classics. From a practical bartender's perspective, it won't replace versatile workhorses like Dolin Dry, but it will make for cocktails that showcase what a really fantastic dry vermouth can do.
Producer: Casa Martelletti
Wine Base: Trebbiano
Known Botanicals: at least 20, including wormwood, cinnamon, myrrh, gentian, and cinchona
Nose: cinnamon, green peppercorn, raisin, sage, lemon, cinchona, orange, oregano, vanilla, banana
Palate: cinchona, clove, grapefruit, wormwood, juniper, sage, almond, orange, pineapple
Finish: wormwood, cinchona, lemon, cinnamon, nutmeg, juniper, rosemary, coriander, mint
Additional Notes: Vermouth di Torino. Green-tinted straw-yellow color. Round, oily mouthfeel. Bitter and stemmy with a drying finish.
I was blown away by Martelletti's Rosso, so I was ecstatic to stumble upon their dry vermouth. Unsurprisingly, it's absolutely delicious.
I enjoyed this one so much, it would appear that I drank it all before I even remembered to take a picture of it! So to make it up to you, here's an embarrassing picture of me from high school.
Anyway, I drank this all the ways. It makes for an excellent Martini and the second-best Bamboo I can recall tasting (yes, the Cinzano 1757 beats it out). I rediscovered my love of the Metropole cocktail. I confirmed my suspicion that I don't love Vermouth Curacao, but I love Vermouth Cassis. If you can find Martelletti Dry, buy it.
Stay safe out there, y'all.
Check out the individual regional Vermouth guides for more detailed information on regional styles and recommended bottles:
Sweet White Vermouth
Sweet Red Vermouth
Quinquina and Americano
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