Skip to main content

The 6 best Marsala wine cocktail recipes to make

With good Marsala wine, you can make some quality cocktails

Florio Marsala barrels.
Terry Feuerborn / Flickr

Marsala is a fortified wine from Italy that we in the U.S. pretty much use only for cooking. But the Sicilian liquid can be great as both a sipper and a cocktail base. After all, the Portuguese love a good port and tonic, and the Spanish mix with sherry all the time. Why should we treat Marsala any differently?

The answer, of course, is that we shouldn’t. Marsala is a dynamic animal, sometimes rich and hearty, other times lighter and more savory. It’s practically as old as time in its native land — conveniently called Marsala (located in western Sicily in southern Italy). But it wasn’t until English importers caught wind of the stuff in the 18th century that Marsala wine was significantly exported. It remains a lesser-known fortified wine, less popular here than, say, port, vermouth, or even sherry, but it should really carry more appeal.

Marsala is arguably most like sherry or Madeira, often nutty and oxidized and typically associated with cooking (chicken marsala, anyone?). The DOC (which stands for controlled destination of origin) status goes back to the late 60s and, like Champagne or the Italian wine Chianti, the region has held on to its naming rights ever since. In other words, to be a genuine Marsala, it must be from Marsala. It’s usually made from the native Grillo grape and while you should indeed cook with the stuff — especially the bottom shelf options — the really good stuff should be enjoyed neat, with complementary cheese and nuts, or mixed into a radiant cocktail.

When making a cocktail that features Marsala, the best advice is to keep things relatively simple. The fortified wine will bring enough complexity to the table, so all you’ll really need are a few like-minded flavors or a bit of dilution. Also, note that the flavor spectrum of Marsala is quite broad, so make sure you pay attention to the label or sample what you have before you get to mixing.

Here are the best Marsala wine cocktail recipes to mix up with the fortified drink. You may even come away with a new favorite. If nothing else, you’ll be ahead of what should be an emerging trend in the land of cocktails.


Manhattan Superiore cocktail.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Manhattan Superiore

Marsala and whiskey are fast friends, as proven here in this recipe from the iconic Florio Marsala brand, established in Sicily in 1833. The wine slips in beautifully in place of sweet vermouth. Be sure to use a sweet Marsala to amplify the richness of the cocktail.


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


  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  3. Garnish with an orange peel.
Bloody Marsala cocktail.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Bloody Marsala

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


  • 1 1/2 ounces VecchioFlorio Dry Marsala Superiore
  • 4 ounces tomato juice
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 10 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 dashes Tabasco


  1. Combine all ingredients in a glass with ice.
  2. Stir well and garnish with a lemon wedge and celery stalk.
Marsala and Tonic.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Marsala and Tonic

Keep it simple and play off the nuance and depth of a higher-end Marsala here.


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


  1. Add Marsala to a highball glass with ice.
  2. Fill the glass with tonic water and garnish with an orange slice.
fine and rare secret menu from russia with love martini
Fine & Rare

Marsala Martini

This recipe from Difford’s Guide banks on the harmony created from good Marsala, bone-dry vermouth, and a touch of amaretto.


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


  1. Stir all the ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  2. Garnish with a pickled almond.
Real Garibaldi cocktail.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Real Garibaldi

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


  • 1 1/2 ounces VecchioFlorio Dry Marsala Superiore
  • 5 ounces fresh orange juice


  1. Combine the ingredients in a highball glass with ice.
  2. Stir well and garnish with an orange slice.
Negroni Cocktail
Wikimedia Commons

The Lost Sailor

This recipe from Colombo Marsala Wine takes the traditional Italian Negroni cocktail, which can be bitter, and offsets the bitterness by adding sweet Marsala. According to the recipe, it is a “sophisticated cocktail” that “embodies the classic taste of a Negroni” with a complex flavor profile, and it’s a drink meant to be sipped slowly.


  • 1 1/2 ounces sweet Colombo Marsala
  • 1 1/2 ounces Campari
  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • Orange twist


  1. Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Strain the contents of the mixing glass into a cocktail glass over ice.
  3. Garnish with the orange twist.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
Take a break from pumpkin beer: The best Oktoberfest beers to drink this fall
These delicious drinks are perfect for crisp fall days
Pint of beer

There are at least a handful of holidays (especially drinking centered holidays) that many drinkers don’t really know the true origins of. We know these are special days in which we drink tequila and Mexican beer (Cinco de Mayo), Irish whiskey or dry Irish stouts (St. Patrick’s Day), and giant pints of malty, refreshing German beer (Oktoberfest). And while we’ll get into the other two when the time comes, it’s Oktoberfest’s time in the spotlight.

Oktoberfest is more than simply a day to wear your grandfather’s lederhosen, drink Marzen, eat schnitzel, and listen to oom-pah music. It’s a two-week festival (the actual party is in Munich) that’s celebrated each fall to remember the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810.

Read more
10 smoky scotch whisky options to make those fall campfires magical
Our favorite smoky scotch whisky brands for late-summer drinking
Campfire whisky

The end of summer is barreling toward us like a pumpkin spice-fueled locomotive. Depending on where you live, you’re likely already seeing some signs of fall. The leaves are beginning to change color, the days are getting shorter, and Halloween candy is already on grocery store shelves. Fear not, even with the eventuality that is the end of summer, we still have until September 23 to enjoy all that the season has to offer. For us, it means as many backyard campfires as possible before the weather grows colder. It also means we only have weeks left to pair our fires with a glass of warming Scotch whisky.

Nobody will blame you for complimenting the smoky fire by drinking a complex, non-peated single malt Scotch whisky. For those confused about the spelling, most of the world omits the 'e' when referring to whisky. You also might be wondering the difference between Scotch and whiskey. Well, in the simplest terms, Scotch is a kind of whisky (Americans and the Irish still use the 'e'). So that should put an end to the Scotch vs. whiskey debate once and for all.

Read more
Apple cider donuts are a fall tradition – this is the only recipe you need
You'll love this tasty, simple apple cider donut recipe
Apple cider donuts with sugar

This time of year, the sweet treats are out to play, and we couldn't be more thrilled. Pair all the deliciously spicy fall flavors with chilly days that make you want to snuggle up with something cozy and sugary, and we're happy campers. Perhaps slightly chubbier ones, but that's what the cable-knit sweaters are for. If you've never made (or even tried!) piping hot, cinnamon-sugary, crisp and spicy, fresh apple cider donuts, what are you even doing with your life? This chilly weather treat is a must for autumn days, and it's about time you learn to make these spicy little love cakes.

Why are apple cider donuts so good?
We all love our local corner donut shops for a quick sugar fix and a cheap cup of coffee. Nothing says "it's going to be a good Saturday morning" more than one of those cheerful pink boxes. Now imagine that instead of your usual maple bar or classic glazed, the donut in your hand is fresh and warm, infused with crisp, autumnal apple cider and fall spices, warm cinnamon and sugar crystals dusting your fingertips. And instead of a fluorescently lit shop in a strip mall with chipped laminate flooring, you're enjoying that donut at a stunningly fragrant, gorgeously picturesque apple orchard, owned and run by kind and jovial local farmers.

Read more