$$ — 16.5% ABV — Sweet Wine
The favored vermouth of most upscale bar programs is Carpano's robust Antica Formula. It's everything a good Italian vermouth should be: big-bodied, strong-headed and loud-mouthed. If mixed with potent ingredients (Manhattans anyone?) or simply served on ice, you can be sure Antica's personality will shine like a lion.
But if mixed with delicate spirits (Hanky Pankys anyone?) you might find Antica will, like lions are known to do, disembowel all the other ingredients. This is why many cocktail bars use Antica as a minority ingredient in a house mix, or use another vermouth altogether. As excitable as some people can get over this wine, it's is not a magic bullet. It is however among the best sweet vermouths out there.
Unfortunately Antica only comes in large one liter bottles. This makes its elevated price a little less daunting but — once opened — you're on the clock to finish the bottle in a month, less if you can manage it. That's not a problem for bars; for barrel-aging cocktails; or if you're hosting an especially large party, but quiet sippers might see a quarter of the bottle go sour before it can be enjoyed.
Perhaps the only way to finish a bottle in time is to truly appreciate Antica and drink it straight. You won't hate yourself for it: the sweet moscato wine and strong presence of vanilla makes it exceptionally smooth despite the dry and pungent notes from the other botanicals. Over ice in the summer air, you might just think you're sitting along a quaint Italian viale. If that doesn't polish the bottle, worst case scenario — Dio mi perdoni — use the dregs to deglaze your steak pan. Say a few Hail Mary's if you must, it's sinfully delicious.