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Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Bitter Liqueur Review

Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Bitter Liqueur

Campari,

You know that I love you. But I feel that we should see other people.

No, it’s nothing you did. It’s just that Martini & Rossi is releasing their new Riserva Speciale Bitter Liqueur in October. And—I just don’t know how else to say this—it reminds me of the rush I got when I first met you.

It’s part of a new line of vermouths from Martini & Rossi that they’re calling the Riserva Speciale range. This latest release is based on the original 1872 recipe conceived by the brand’s founder, Luigi Rossi.

It pours a bright, translucent red in the glass—a little brighter than you. It doesn’t have much nose to speak off, aside from some ground black pepper and faint citrus. It’s thick and heavy on the tongue, with a cool temp and a viscous texture. The initial flavors are a strong, sweet citrus that remind me of chomping into candied wedges of lemon and orange. Those sweet notes turn acidic, and the whole journey reverses course into a long, dry finish that concludes with pine. The last bitter notes linger for what feels like an eternity.

It’s a beautiful experience that captures the extremes of Italian liqueur—juicy sweetness, bracing bitterness—in full measure. If I were trying to explain aperitifs to someone in a single sip, I’d give them a glass of this.

The press release I received boldly states that it will make “the ultimate Negroni.” I’m sorry, Campari, but I had to try.

For the sake of consistency, I fixed my Negroni with the same two complements I’ve been using for months—Carpano Antica and Rutte Dry Gin—plus the Martini Bitter Liqueur. The first thing I noticed was that it was a lighter, brighter shade or red than what I’m used to. Taste-wise, this alt Negroni seemed both sweeter and drier than those that I made with Campari. It also had a fresh, clean feeling that somehow reminded me of freshly brushed teeth. In fewer words: it was both different, and damn good.

Look, Campari, this doesn’t mean we’re through. I’m not going to lie: I liked it. But on the other hand, we’ve been through so much together. Meaning, I’ve drank several hundred drinks you were a part of in my lifetime thus far, and will continue to do so.

I’m not ready to call it quits. But I’m also not going to rule this beautiful new stranger out of my life.

We’ll all just have to get along.

Stats:
— 28% ABV
— $26.99

CE Rating: ★★★

Written by Eric Twardzik

Eric Twardzik is a writer and frequent imbiber living in Boston who believes in the healing powers of Fernet.

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