Vermouth

Perfect cocktail: When paired with gin in this classic cocktail, sweet and dry vermouths are well balanced. (We used Cinzano Rosso and Noilly Prat French Dry.) The simple proportions mean making a pitcher in advance is a cinch for summer entertaining. For a single drink, stir 1 ounce gin and 1 ounce each of sweet and dry vermouths in a mixing glass with ice until well chilled. Strain and pour into a rocks glass filled with ice. Add a few dashes of bitters to taste. Garnish with a twist of orange peel. (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune / July 12, 2010)

Taste: Bitter and citrus notes, like the pith of a lemon; astringent aftertaste.
Best enjoyed... In a strong cocktail, like a manhattan, or on its own with ice and sparkling water.
Price: $21

Cinzano Rouge
Details: Released in 1816 by the Cinzano family as a sweet, spicy aperitif.
Taste: Candied citrus, cinnamon and spice; mild, smooth texture.
Best enjoyed... In a manhattan or on the rocks. This stuff is too powerful for weaker cocktails.
Price: $7

Cinzano Bianco
Details: One of the first dry vermouths, worlds apart from its sweet cousin.
Taste: Sweet with a bitter finish; hints of pepper and herbs.
Best enjoyed...In a more delicate cocktail, like a martini; not strong enough to fly solo.
Price: $7

Cinzano Extra Dry
Details: Bianco's more offensive relative.
Taste: Initial bittersweet bite; dry finish.
Best enjoyed... In a lighter cocktail, preferably against something citrusy. Neat = not advised.
Price: $7

Noilly Prat French Extra Dry
Details: Born in 1813 as a French response to Italian vermouth; a popular classic.