No, these are not my beloved gin Martini (two ounces Bombay Sapphire Gin, scant capful of Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth, shaken until freezing cold, with three blue cheese stuffed olives added) or James Bond’s famous vodka Martini ( . . . with a thin slice of lemon, shaken, not stirred.)
These classic French before-dinner drinks are simply a glass of white or red vermouth. While vermouth is most commonly just a mixer in the US, in Europe it is also served as a stand alone aperitif of 2 to 3 ounces (6 to 9 centilitre) either neat, chilled, or over ice. Vermouth is a fortified wine (13-24% alcohol content), that has been aromatized by infusing it with botanicals: spices and herbs, the most notable of which is wormwood. The modern version of vermouth was created in Turin, Italy in 1768. Vermouth quickly became a popular drink at the Turin Royal Court and its popularity spread throughout Europe from there.
Martini Blanc (Martini White)
Here in Carcassonne I am served two ounces of Martini Bianco vermouth over ice with a slice of lemon with a small spoon in a specific Martini Logo glass. The spoon is used to stir the drink to cool the vermouth. This is sweet vermouth with a slightly bitter citrus taste and an undertaste of vanilla.
Martini Rouge (Martini Red)
The Rouge version of the Martini has two ounces of Martini Rosso vermouth poured over ice with a slice of orange. Like the Blanc, it is served in a Martini Logo glass with a small spoon. Another sweet vermouth, but this one has notes of slightly bitter orange.
The Italian vermouth Cinzano and French vermouth Noilly Prat are widely available in France. There are also straw-colored dry and rosé vermouths choices available.
So what do I think? I would be happy to accept a Martini Rouge from a host as an aperitif at a gathering. It’s pleasant, refreshing, and I would prefer the Rouge to the Blanc. The Rouge has more of a “wine-like” quality to its flavor than the Blanc.
I enjoyed both drinks, although while having them it brought back the memory of the pained look on Bill Murray’s face in the film “Groundhog Day” when he is forced to drink Andie MacDowell’s character’s favorite drink, “Sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist.” These would not be my “go to” beverages.
With all said and done, I really prefer to have my vermouth as a few drops of dry vermouth added to a traditional gin Martini. In order to get that classic Martini cocktail in France one must specifically order a “Dry Martini” or a Martini sec.