What is Amaro?
It's on all of the craft cocktail bar menus you've seen, and you've definitely ingested it, but what exactly is it?
A Quick History
Amaro, meaning "bitter" in Italian, is a type of herbal liqueur that has been enjoyed for centuries in Italy and around the world. It's origins are traced all the way back to the Middle Ages, when monks and alchemists experimented with infusing alcohol with a variety of herbs, roots, and spices, often used as healing elixirs. These early versions of amaro were often used as medicine and were believed to have healing properties.
It wasn't until the 19th century that amaro began to take on its modern form. Italian distillers started to experiment with different ingredients and techniques to create a more refined, and less horrible tasting, product. They began to use a wider variety of botanicals, including gentian root, which gives amaro its characteristically bitter flavor, along with other ingredients like cinnamon, clove, and orange peel.
Amaro's popularity began to grow rapidly in the early 20th century, as people began to discover its unique flavor and the many benefits of drinking it. It is commonly consumed neat, on the rocks, or mixed in cocktails. Amaro is also a key ingredient in many classic cocktails, such as the Manhattan, Negroni, and the Boulevardier.
Amaro is also a perfect after dinner sipper, or "digestif", as it generally has a much lower alcohol content than regular spirits and liqueurs.
Some popular brands of amaro include:
Fernet: This type of amaro originated in Italy and is known for its strong, bitter flavor and dark color. It's made using a secret recipe of over 20 herbs, roots, and spices, and is often consumed as a digestif. Fernet Branca is one of the most popular brands.
Averna: This amaro is made in Sicily, Italy, and is known for its sweet, caramelized flavor. It's made using a blend of herbs, roots, and citrus peels, and is often enjoyed as a digestif.
Campari: This bright red amaro is made using a blend of bitter herbs and fruits, and is known for its bitter, slightly sweet flavor. It's often used as a key ingredient in cocktails, such as the Negroni.
Cynar: This amaro is made using a blend of 13 herbs and plants, with artichoke as the main ingredient. It's known for its unique, bittersweet flavor and is often enjoyed as an aperitif.
Ramazzotti: This amaro is made in Milan, Italy, and is known for its smooth, slightly sweet flavor. It's made using a blend of 33 herbs and spices, and is often enjoyed as a digestif.
Montenegro: This amaro is made in Bologna, Italy, and is known for its smooth, slightly sweet flavor. It's made using a blend of 40 different herbs and spices, and is often enjoyed as a digestif.
Amaro is an incredible addition to any cocktail, so stocking one bottle of your favorite brand would be a great place to start for your at-home bar. If you fall in love, we highly recommend dabbling in amaro's from around the world as each has a completely unique flavor profile and offers a one-of-a-kind experience.