The 5 best Marsala wine cocktail recipes to make

Marsala is a fortified wine from Italy that we use almost exclusively for cooking. But the Sicilian liquid can be excellent both as a drink and as a cocktail base. After all, the Portuguese love a good Port and tonic, and the Spaniards mix it up with sherry all the time. Why should we treat brotherly drink Marsala any differently?

The answer, of course, is that we shouldn’t. Marsala is a dynamic animal, sometimes rich and hearty, sometimes lighter and tastier. He is practically as old as time in his native land – conveniently called Marsala (located in western Sicily, southern Italy). But it wasn’t until English importers got wind of it in the 18th century that Marsala wine was exported in any significant way. It remains a lesser-known fortified wine, less popular here than, say, port, sherry or vermouth, but it really should have more appeal.

Flickr/Terry Feuerborn

Marsala arguably most closely resembles sherry or Madeira, often nutty and oxidized and commonly associated with cooking (chicken marsala, anyone?). DOC status dates back to the late 1960s and, like Champagne or Chianti, the region has retained its appellation rights ever since. In other words, to be a real Marsala, it must come from Marsala. It’s usually made from the native Grillo grape and while you do indeed have to cook with the stuff – especially the bottom shelf options – the really good stuff should be enjoyed neat, with complementary cheese and nuts, or mixed in a radiant cocktail.

When making a Marsala-based cocktail, the best advice is to keep things relatively simple. Fortified wine will bring enough complexity to the table that you really only need a few similar flavors or a little dilution. Also note that Marsala’s flavor spectrum is quite broad, so be sure to pay attention to the label or sample what you have before you start blending.

Here are some well-known cocktails to try with Marsala. You can even walk away with a new favourite. If nothing else, you’ll be ahead of what should be an emerging trend in cocktail country. The Martini recipe comes from Difford’s while the rest is courtesy of the iconic brand Florio Marsala, established in Sicily in 1833.


Upper Manhattan

Superior Manhattan cocktail.

Marsala and whiskey are fast friends, as proven here. Wine fits beautifully in place of sweet vermouth. Be sure to use a mild Marsala to amp up the richness of the cocktail.


  • 2 ounces The Busker Irish Whiskey
  • 1 ounce VecchioFlorio Sweet Marsala Superiore
  • 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters


  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  3. Garnish with an orange zest.

blood marsala

Bloody Marsala cocktail.

With the briny notes that a good dry Marsala often boasts, it’s no wonder it works well in this morning (or early afternoon, if you’re having brunch) classic.


  • 1.5 ounce VecchioFlorio Dry Marsala Superiore
  • 4 ounces of tomato juice
  • 0.5 ounce lemon juice
  • 10 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 dashes of Tabasco


  1. Mix all the ingredients in a glass with ice.
  2. Mix well and garnish with a lemon wedge and a stalk of celery.

Marsala & Tonic

Marsala and tonic.

Keep it simple and play up the nuance and depth of a premium Marsala here.


  • 2 ounces Florio ‘Terre Arse’ Marsala Superiore Riserva
  • Ice cold tonic water


  1. Add Marsala to a highball glass with ice.
  2. Fill the glass with tonic water and garnish with an orange slice.

Marsala Martini

refined and rare russia secret menu with love martini
Fine & Rare

This recipe from Difford’s Guide relies on the harmony created by good Marsala, very dry vermouth and a touch of amaretto.


  • 2 ounces dry gin
  • 1/3 ounce dry Marsala Superiore DOC wine
  • 1/3 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1/6 ounce amaretto


  1. Combine all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  2. Garnish with a marinated almond.

The real Garibaldi

Genuine Garibaldi cocktail.

Another simple yet satisfying cocktail that relies on nothing more than fresh citrus and the fruity, raisiny and slightly woody notes of fortified wine.


  • 1.5 ounce VecchioFlorio Dry Marsala Superiore
  • 5 ounces of fresh orange juice


  1. Combine ingredients in a highball glass with ice.
  2. Mix well and garnish with a slice of orange.

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