Happy Birthday, Cinzano

Normally, a picture of the hapless bicyclist going ass over teakettle off the road in the movie “Breaking Away” pops to mind when I think of Cinzano. (Remember the main character idolizes the Italian bicyclists, Team Cinzano, only to have his hero worship repaid with villainy?) Not much of a testimonial for this classic brand of Vermouth, but I digress.

Today, I am thinking of Cinzano because it’s the 250th anniversary of the spirits maker, which is as good a reason as any to revisit this strong product. It seems to me that as a Vermouth, Cinzano tends to take a backseat to Martini & Rossi, which seems to get paired up with gin in Martinis and whiskey in Manhattans an awful lot. I think that’s partially because part of its name is right there in the name of the cocktail: making a Martini, use Martini & Rossi, no-brainer. It’s a good product, too, but cocktailists shouldn’t ignore Cinzano (which ironically is older than M&R) when making classic cocktails, especially the granddaddy of them all, the Manhattan.

In the red Vermouths (and that’s what you want for Manhattans), the difference is largely one of body. M&R is more elegant and delicate, more flowery and fruity. Cinzano is bolder, with a Port taste that really comes through, as well as dates, spices and nuts. Of course, these aren’t the only choices—there’s Noilly Prat, Dolin, Punt e Mes, etc. to consider—but the point is I’m determined to keep an open mind and test different cocktail ingredients.

On a side note, Cinzano has asked chef Brad Farmerie of PUBLIC to create a Cinzano-based recipe. He responded with formulae for olives, ketchup, melon salad and brownies, among other things. You can get them by emailing Brenda Dos Santos at this address: bdsantos@prandcompany.com. Any alchemists out there who try them please respond.
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