After going through several bottles of Noilly-Prat vermouths, I decided to try something different. Over time, the advertising on umbrellas, cycling jerseys, and boats worked its marketing magic and I picked up some bottles of Cinzano.
Cinzano has made vermouth since 1757, and currently there are four varieties. Here I use the sweet red (Rosso) and dry white (Extra Dry) versions. Additionally, there is a sweeter white and a new rosé, neither of which I've tried. They're meant to be enjoyed either on their own or in cocktails, though in this country drinking straight vermouth will get you some odd looks at bars. I tried both on their own and with cocktails. Here I compare them mostly against Noilly Prat, since I have the most experience with those products.
The Rosso is bolder and tangier than Noilly Prat. At times it even approaches something like a thin Sherry. I was pleased with its performance in a Manhattan, but if you're using good whiskey, I'd prefer the Noilly Prat for its smoother, milder profile.
The Extra Dry is interesting because it is almost as clear as water. It is crisper and brighter than Noilly Prat. I also note a citrus edge, which is nice because of how much a Martini benefits from a little citrus in the form of peels or bitters. And the Martini that I made was fantastic, with a tart, refreshing profile. Additionally, since it is so clear, you end up with a clear cocktail. I don't mind a Martini with a touch of gold to it, but sometimes it's nice to have that crystal appearance at a party.
I also made a Perfect Martini (using both red and white vermouths), and was pleased with the results. However, I don't often make that cocktail, so I don't have a good frame of reference for its performance.
Verdict: For the time being I'm going to go back to Noilly Prat for the red, but for the white I prefer the Cinzano, especially when viewed against the new sweeter Noilly Prat.