Today — I want to chat about Amari.
Amaro-which translates to ‘Bitter’ in Italian (plural “Amari”) are typically digestivos, or digestifs, meaning they are drunk after dinner to ‘aid with digestion’ OR drunk before dinner to stimulate appetite. Their alcohol content can range from 16 to 40 percent and they are typically consumed neat, in cocktails, or on ice. Amari are made by macerating roots, herbs, flowers, bark, peels, etc. and mixed with sugar or syrup, and are often aged in a cask.
And, they are delicious and can add complexity and balance to cocktails.
You may have noticed that Amari is having quite a moment right now, being used heavily in craft cocktail bars and showing up a bit more in liquor stores (although, not as much as I would love to see!).
The cocktail geek squad (I use that term with much endearment) at Main Course Management (previously Trio and LaSalle Restaurant Groups) takes great pride in educating our local drinkers about what they are ordering — so if you have seen some of these Amari selections by name on a cocktail menu near you but were unsure of the history or flavor profile, hopefully, this will help you understand what you are drinking!
Here are some of the Amari that we tried and a little bit about their flavor profiles. So, the next time you see these offerings on a menu, make sure to give them a try!
Ramazzotti: one of the most popular amari. 30% alcohol content, created in 1815 and uses 33 roots and herbs in its super secret recipe including sweet oranges, whose taste is the most prominent. Very medium in flavor and bitter.
Santa Maria: fernet style amaro and one of the strongest of the amari family. Hints of aloe, vegetal, rhubarb. Aged for one year. Great for a Pimm’s and has a hot finish.
Averna: created in 1968 and has a medium style body and bitter. Floral forward and created with a family recipe that includes the King of the time’s crest on the bottle. Hints of caramel, pepper, and orange.
Zucca: created in 1845 and heavier in flavor. Prepared using the roots of a special type of rhubarb together with other spices and botanical. Hints of charred wood (you might even pick up some tobacco or cigar flavor).
Cynar: artichoke based bittersweet liqueur known for its versatility and distinctive flavour; its taste is enriched by an infusion of 13 herbs and plants. Herbal and bittersweet features (16,5%), Cynar is an ideal pre or post dinner drink, and a bartender favorite to create “pungent” and original cocktails.
Montenegro: made using over 40 herbs, including vanilla and orange peel and one of the most popular in cocktail bars. More floral than most other amaro, with an aroma and flavor of rose petals.
Cappelletti: of the “red” amaro family and the oldest of the red styles available. 4th generation, family-owned brand. Wine-based and a bit sweeter than other reds such as Campari. Delicious on its own or try it in a Negroni.
Amaro is a wonderful thing. And, if anything, you can ALWAYS talk yourself into drinking it due to the medicinal purposes that all amari possesses. Because they were all created in order to stimulate appetite or make digestion easier, just call them a health food. Most of these amari were actually used medicinally before they ever were used for imbibing. And with flavors from ginger, saffron, and myrh to orange, charred wood, and rose — there is an amari for every palate.
So, next time you are out and about (especially if you are at Under Current!), make sure to ask your bartender about an amaro-forward cocktail that they love! A few that we were able to enjoy are classics: The Toronto and the Paper Plane. And of course, you can always order up a Negroni, which can have a million variations.