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: Complex, floral and fragrant; lighter than the nose suggests.
Best enjoyed... The rare dry that's great on the rocks or chilled. Too strong for lighter drinks, like martinis.
Price: $9

Noilly Prat Rouge
Details: Less popular than its dry counterpart; strong and herbal.
Taste: Mild but powerful, menthol-like aftertaste.
Best enjoyed... In any recipe that calls for sweet vermouth, so long as it's a strong mix. Not so great solo.
Price: $9

Martini & Rossi Rossi
Details: Established in 1863; holds steady in popularity contests.
Taste: Prune, fig and nuts; one-dimensional, which is great for mixing.
Best enjoyed... In a negroni or similarly light cocktail; wouldn't play well in a heavy manhattan.
Price: $10

Martini & Rossi Bianco
Details: Aromatic almost to a fault; oregano and herbs reminiscent of Italian food.
Taste: Sweet, then bitter.
Best enjoyed... In a cocktail that enjoys a sweet edge, or on the rocks with soda.
Price: $8

Martini & Rossi Extra Dry
Details: Ridiculously strong and skunky.