How does one describe a spirit as complex as the amaro family? When there are hundreds of different styles of these before and after dinner beverages, where do you begin?
Amaro is one of the most complicated spirits on the market, partly due to to its wide variety of selection, and partly due to its designation as a highly acquired taste. Seasoned drinkers of various amari are fond of its complexity and the variation between the countless options such that no two bottles are precisely the same. Here is your introduction and beginner’s guide to the world of the amaro.
What Is Amaro?
There is no way to describe amaro in a way that truly encompasses everything that it is and can be. It is a beverage that can be used in small amounts in cocktails for its complex flavor, or in larger amounts as a before or after dinner drink; an aperitif or digestif, respectively.
It is made with a base of simple grape brandy, like a wine that is lighter, but stronger. Here’s where amaro gets confusing; the brandy goes through an infusion process, but very few distillers of the stuff disclose the bouquet that they infuse. Typically, this entails a lot of strong herbs along with some other flavors, such as flowers, aromatics and simple syrup, and then aged until the flavor takes on complex notes of sweetness, bitterness and other tastes that can confuse the tastebuds.
The Origins of Amaro
For hundreds of years, Amaro was a secret of the Italians. Italian monks in the 17th century are believed to have used Amaro as a medicinal beverage, long before it was consumed as a before or after dinner drink.
Amaro only gained notoriety in the United States recently, as Negronis became a popular drink stateside, but true Amaro purists, mainly in Europe, insist on drinking it neat before or after dinner to stimulate either appetite or digestion.
Notable Amaro Varieties
While Italian amaristis consider only some varieties “true” Amari, there are several that are well known across the Atlantic these days.
Campari has become a larger and larger part of the American palate, while Italian distillers debate whether or not to consider the stuff a true member of the Amaro family, due to Campari being enjoyed before dinner, and the rest of the Amari selection meant for aiding digestion after consuming a meal.
Fernet is used to describe several different types of Amaro that are exceptionally bitter (and very tasty!).
While Italian Amaro is the dominant style on the market, several other European countries also have their hand in the game. For example, the German Jagermeister (admit it, you’re surprised) is considered a digestif Amaro, despite its long-lasting and fanatical popularity in the states.
Notable Amaro Cocktails
Since most Amaro is meant to be taken straight and neat, cocktails incorporating the spirit are few and far between at most bars, headlined by a single drink that’s rapidly growing in popularity: the Negroni.
This cocktail, for which drinkers have an acquired taste, is composed of Campari, sweet vermouth and dry gin. Other amaro cocktails include the Americano, which is a Negroni without the gin but with soda.
Amaro is becoming more and more of a delicacy in the U.S., and we have a wide variety for you to sample. Come visit us, settle in and allow our experts the opportunity to thrill you with our selection of this complex and mysterious spirit.