Indulging in your typical Italian aperitivo hour is usually a lowish ABV affair – placing the Negroni firmly to one side – but it’s almost impossible to enjoy the drinking occasion totally sans-booze. Until now, that is. Martini has just launched a duo of delectable non-alcoholic aperitivo, made with wines used in its classic vermouths. We take a look at the range…
Beloved by our Italian neighbours, aperitivo is that golden period – generally between 7pm and 9pm – to unwind from the day’s events over a glass of something satisfying and a few choice nibbles. Traditionally that glass has been filled with something boozy, be it a sparkling Sbagliato or an Aperol Spritz. When you’re taking a break from alcohol, be it for one night or one month, there aren’t many sundowner options.
“In the past, deciding not to drink alcohol meant a fizzy water while everyone else enjoyed cocktails; or staying at home on a Friday while your friends go out and enjoy aperitivo time,” Nick Stringer, global vice president of Martini, explained in a press release. “But times are changing, and consumers don’t want to feel like they are missing out when they are being more mindful about their drinking.”
Too true. To remedy this terrible dilemma, Italian spirits behemoth Martini has very kindly released a two-strong range called Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo, which are made using the same white wines as its classic vermouths. Drawing on hundreds of years of distilling know-how, master herbalist Ivano Tonutti and master blender Beppe Musso remove the alcohol from the wine using vacuum distillation before infusing the resulting liquid with a special selection of botanicals.
“We always use a mix of botanicals – we’re never using one single botanical, because we’re really going for the complexity,” says global brand ambassador Roberta Mariani. “Artemesia is the main botanical for the production of vermouth, and it’s really the signature of Martini. Any of our products, from our bitters, to our amaros to vermouth, they all contain artemisia.”
Martini’s new fruity Vibrante variant is centred on Italian bergamot, while Floreale focuses on Roman chamomile to give a floral profile (as the name indeed suggests). Like with its regular alcoholic aperitivo range, the historic producer uses a variety of techniques to extract flavour from the botanicals. As Mariani explains, each part of the plant benefits from slightly different treatment.
“You’ve got flowers, you’ve got leaves, seeds, barks, roots – so each item needs a different method to extract the flavours, such as infusion, maceration or distillation,” she says. “Usually there are three: one is a bitter extract, one is herbal, and one is a distillate.” Typically, herbal and bitter extracts deliver body and mouthfeel, while the distillate dictates the nose. “Most of the aroma comes from the distillate,” she continues. “Oranges, raspberries… Anything that has a big perfume is usually distilled.”
Removing alcohol from the equation was a pretty big challenge, Mariani admits. While a touch of sugar certainly goes some way towards carrying the flavours found in any vermouth, booze brings a certain texture and mouthfeel that’s especially hard to replicate in such a complex product. This is where the extra botanicals really came into their own. “It took a little bit of time to balance the aperitivo without alcohol, because it usually plays a big part in the production,” she says. Time well spent, we say.
You’re probably wondering how to drink the fruits of their labour. The essence of aperitivo boils down to creating a refreshingly simple serve – less time pouring over recipes, more time snacking on nocellara olives, amiright? – and the Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo range very much fits in with that philosophy.
If long drinks are your bag, Martini suggests combining 75ml of Vibrante or Floreale with 75ml tonic over a generous serving of ice in a balloon glass before garnishing with an orange wheel. Alternatively, simply pour 75ml Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo over ice and sip slowly to appreciate the depth and complexity.
If you’re a whizz behind the back bar, you could even pair a Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo bottling with any one of the many alcohol-free gins on the market and – can you see where we’re going with this? – attempt your own weeknight-safe Negroni with a touch of Martini Bitter (which comes in at a reasonable 25% ABV). Close your eyes, whack some Arancini in the oven and pretend you’re sipping cocktails in a vineyard as the sun sets over Sicily. Bellissimo!
Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo will be coming soon to Master of Malt.