Today marks the start of Amaro Week (21-27 August), a global instagram initiative promoting the Amaro category. Get to know the bitter spirit in this Essential Guide to Amaro and follow us on instagram @cocktails_bars for all the Amaro cocktail recipes.
What is Amaro
Amaro is a traditional Italian bittersweet liqueur made by infusing a base spirit with botanicals such as roots, barks, herbs and fruits. Originally produced for medicinal purposes, amari (plural for amaro) are now enjoyed as an aperitivo, an after dinner digestivo and in cocktails and mixed drinks.
Meaning “bitter” in Italian, amaro is not to be confused with aromatic bitters. The latter, dubbed as salt and pepper of the cocktail world are used in minute quantities to add concentrated flavour with a bittering element. Amari are also referred to as “potable bitters” and can be consumed on their own.
How is Amaro Made
Amaro is produced by infusing botanicals in a base spirit such as vodka, grappa or neutral grain spirit and leaving it to macerate for a period of time. The liquid is then strained to remove the solids and simple syrup is added. The mixture is then rested for a period of time for the combination of flavours to mellow. Some amari are aged in oak casks before bottling.
Production methods vary and many bands have their proprietary recipes and methods of production. Common botanicals used in an amaro include bittering agents such as gentian root and wormwood and other botanicals such as orange peel, rhubarb, vanilla, mint, liquorice, saffron, cardamom, juniper, eucalyptus and cloves.
While Italy is considered the birthplace of amaro, other countries such as France, Mexico, Australia and Czech Republic produce their unique version of the bitter liqueur.
Aperitivo vs Digestivo
Although amari have digestive qualities, they fall under both aperitivo and digestivo categories. Apertivo amari tend to be lighter in colour and flavour while digestivo amari are often darker, reflecting a more bitter-spice note that aids in digestion.
How to Drink Amaro
Amaro can simply be enjoyed neat, on ice or with a splash of soda water. The bittersweet combination of flavours makes a great base as a modifier in cocktails such as the Paper Plane, Old Pal, Peloni and Black Manhattan.
On the next two pages, we’ve compiled an A to Z listing of some of the more common amari. If you have a taste for the bitter or looking at expand your knowledge of the bitter category beyond the Negroni, read on.
Click to the next page for the Essential Guide to Amaro & Bitters (A-B)