Over a year ago now I wrote about two very unusual drinks by Valentino Bolognese that use cocktail bitters as a main ingredient. However one of the cocktails, the Ri.Pa Deuxième, I was unable to properly try as it required an ingredient I couldn’t find anywhere – Martini Bitter.
Indeed I couldn’t even find much about the product, other than the fact it was somewhat similar to Campari and only available in certain countries – Italy and, bizarrely, Sweden are the ones I’m aware of. Though intrigued the only source I could find required ordering it by the case which put it way beyond the cost a passing curiosity could justify. New ingredients piqued my interest and before long I had all but forgotten Martini Bitter.
That was until a month or so back I found myself in 69 Colebrooke Row talking bitters-heavy cocktails with Craig Harper from Martin Miller’s gin and Ian McLaren of Bacardi Brown Forman. In passing I mentioned the elusive Martini Bitter and much to my amazement Ian told me he could easily get hold of some for me. True to his word a few days later a case of Martini Bitter arrived at my doorstep. But was it worth the wait?
Upon opening the bottle I was greeted by the familiar aroma of Campari. Sampling it also provided the usual bitterness tempered with orange and sweetness – combined with the bright red colour I think if I’d have been handed this blind I would have assumed it was Campari. Side by side the differences are a bit clearer – Campari has a stronger more pervasive bitterness, with a deeper herbal character, whereas Martini Bitter is sweeter with a much more syrupy texture, more pronounced orange notes, and a more one-dimensional bitterness.
Initially I was a little disappointed with what seemed almost like Campari Light, but then I read back over my notes on the Ri.Pa Deuxième which was enjoyable but slightly off balance, with too much bitterness overwhelming everything else. Sure enough the Martini Bitter provides just what the Campari couldn’t in this drink, and the result is a very balanced cocktail that really doesn’t let on that it has a full 10 ml of Angostura Orange bitters.
- ⅔ shot / 20 ml / ⅔ oz light rum
- ½ shot / 15 ml / ½ oz Martini Bianco
- ½ shot / 15 ml / ½ oz Bitter Martini
- ⅓ shot / 10 ml / ⅓ oz Tio Pepe sherry
- ⅓ shot / 10 ml / ⅓ oz Angostura Orange bitters
- Stir well with ice and strain in to a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange zest twist.
I think Martini Bitter definitely has some interesting possibilities as an ingredient in cocktails – while its lightness mean it doesn’t make much of a Campari substitute that same lightness may help it work with a greater variety of other spirits without taking over the whole drink. I just need to find some recipes use it, or come up with some of own own!
Meanwhile if you’re interested in getting hold of a bottle yourself, stay tuned for a very exciting Christmas competition coming up in the next few weeks where you will have the chance to win, amongst other things, a bottle of Martini Bitter of your very own.
Note: In the interests of full disclosure, Martini Bitter was supplied to me by Bacardi Brown Forman.
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