Amari (Bitters)

Discussion in 'Other Beverages' started by TongoRad, Apr 21, 2019.

  1. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,611) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    Quel che ciondola, non cade (Bitter pills may have blessed effects)

    Amari (amaro is singular) are Italian bitter "liqueurs", or apertivi, and they can be enjoyed straight or blended into a cocktail. These seem to be catching on, and I love finding new examples on the shelves. It's not just Campari and Averna these days, happily. This can be a thread where people talk about their faves, as well as tasting notes for what they happen to be drinking at the time.

    Here's what's on my shelf lately:
    [​IMG]

    As the name implies, the Sfumato has a great smoky yet mellow quality to it, probably my fave at the moment.
     
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  2. Bouleboubier

    Bouleboubier Poo-Bah (2,391) Dec 22, 2006 New Jersey
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    Never thought I'd see a thread about amari on BA.

    Fernet-Branca has had a permanent place on my shelf for years. I usually sip on it neat, but I just learned the Toronto (sort of variation on an Old Fashioned), which has a 1/4 oz in it. Excellent twist on one of my favorite cocktails.

    I also recall having had at home Amaro Montenegro and Ramazzotti. I remember preferring the former. Cynar was another one I recall liking when I worked at a bar. I probably tried all of the dozen or so we had in stock there, but I can't remember any other really jumping out.

    Maybe this will rekindle my interest in trying new amari. That Sfumato one sounds interesting. I prefer amari that are more bitter / less sweet. Any suggestions?
     
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  3. surfcaster

    surfcaster Champion (802) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
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    Had this for the first time as our post dinner digestif (a different one every night for 5 days) at a bonefishing lodge a few years ago--oh--my! Fernet-Branca was the most memorable and the most bitter of them all. I think one bottle might last me a few years.

    A big 'un.

    Salute!
     
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  4. surfcaster

    surfcaster Champion (802) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
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    Neat thread.

    Although it's not just Campari these days, the wider use of Campari in recipes seems to be leading some resurgence for all of these bitters. The cocktail edition of Garden and Gun of 2018 featured several Campari recipes. Outside of a Negroni, you would be hard pressed to find one 5 years ago--at least in these southern parts.

    I love the variety and a movement toward these "bitters" that is enjoying a bit of prime time. Hungarian Zwack is a sentimental favorite (Hungarian neighbor provided me my first bottle) but a little goes a looooong way for me (for all of these).
     
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  5. Bouleboubier

    Bouleboubier Poo-Bah (2,391) Dec 22, 2006 New Jersey
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    Would the one in particular also be known as Unicum? That reminds me, another of my favorite bitters is Underberg (technically a 'Kräuterlikör' ?) That's more my speed... Looks like they consider Green Chartreuse a cousin to that too. Love both of them. Despite the yellow Chartreuse being considered the 'sweet' one of the two, they're both at times a lil too saccharine. Fantastic flavors at any rate.
     
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  6. surfcaster

    surfcaster Champion (802) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
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    Yessir— Unicum/Zwack. Haven’t had those others and am by no means experienced with the style.
     
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  7. Jacobier10

    Jacobier10 Poo-Bah (2,043) Feb 23, 2004 New Jersey
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    I love a good Negroni but haven't had anything other than Campari before. This thread is inspiring me to branch out though! That Sfumato sounds really interesting.
     
  8. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,611) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    Yeah, I find Branca to be pretty intense, myself. My first experience with it was straight up, and although I'm accustomed to this sort of beverage I still was taken aback. It's excellent mixed in a cocktail or highball, however.

    Last year I was on vacation at an all-inclusive, and they had Fernet Branca behind the bar. Since everything was free anyway I decided to play around with it a bit. I quickly settled on Fernet Branca and tonic with a splash of orange juice. Give it a shot some time, I thought it was as sophisticated as it was refreshing.

    One of the bartenders was kinda funny about it once. She initially gave me a 'really?' look, but you could see that as she was making it she became curious. And then, before handing me the drink she just had to take a spoonful for herself to taste it; and then I got the nod of approval :sunglasses:.

    Nice- this one sounds really interesting! From what I can see, it's supposed to be piney and bitter, right up my alley. A short ways back @zid and I tried one like that called Alta Verde (?), and I haven't been able to locate a bottle since. It was fantastic! If this is similar I will have to make a point of getting some soon.
     
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  9. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,611) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    A lot of them will have that syrupy backbone to offset the bitterness, but somehow on the palate some will come off less sweet than others- I'll prefer Averna to Ramazzotti for that reason.

    The other two I have in the photo- Pellegrino and Toscana- are in that sort of 'style', spicy/citrusy with that caramelized backdrop. The Sfumato is not, and that's another reason why I love it as a 'change of pace'.

    The one I like best of that 'sweeter' dark type, however, is Sibona- there's a great wintergreen kick to it that helps balance things out in an intricate way. And it's kind of addictive, too.
    [​IMG]
     
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  10. Bouleboubier

    Bouleboubier Poo-Bah (2,391) Dec 22, 2006 New Jersey
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    Of all the ones I remember having tried in the past, Ramazzotti may have been the sweetest. I kind of regretted buying a bottle not long after I'd opened it. Averna was another I remember earmarking for a revisit. But, yeah, you're right, a lot have some mild variation on a spicy/citrusy/caramel foundation. Hmm, Sibona sounds intriguing.
     
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  11. FonyBones

    FonyBones Aspirant (221) Dec 19, 2015 New York
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    Antico Amaro Noveis from Distillerie Francoli is worth trying. Nicely balanced. Not too sweet, not too bitter. I prefer to drink it neat at cellar temperature, maybe with an ice cube if it's hot out. It was recommended to me as a good starting point for exploring amari. Readily available at nicer wine shops around NYC.
     
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  12. MrOH

    MrOH Savant (928) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    Cynar with grapefruit soda is absolutely great in the spring
     
  13. Sesmu

    Sesmu Aspirant (204) Feb 28, 2007 Massachusetts

    Suddenly there is SO MUCH more to talk about on Beeradvocate )

    I prefer amari on a bitter side myself. I usually sip them straight. Fernet Branca is probably my favorite. And speaking of Branca: if you end up buying a very sweet amaro, that you find just too sweet, simply mix it with Branca. Really. Ratio would depend on the sweetness of the other amaro, but 50/50 is a good place to start.

    Another favorite of mine is Brovo #01 (American, created by/with bartenders). They have several recipes, but 01 is clearly the most universal and, imo, their best.

    I can also recommend Antica Torino della Sacra - tasty and bitter )

    Don Ciccio & Figli have several interesting amari. I think I like delle Sirene the most.

    Another one I recently discovered is Casoni. They have a couple, but del Ciclista would be somewhat similar to Sfumato Rabarbaro with its earthy/ashy-ness.
     
  14. Premo88

    Premo88 Poo-Bah (1,782) Jun 6, 2010 Texas
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    I'm going to look for a decent bottle of Amaro this weekend but have a question:

    Would something like the Sfumato be wasted in an Old Fashioned or any other cocktail?

    While Amari sounds intriguing and I want to try some of these neat, my main use for any bottle of bitters over the hot summer will be mixing in cocktails. I'm a 100% Amari/bitters newbie, so any advice is welcome.
     
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  15. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,611) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    I haven't tried any myself, but I have seen recipes on line for cocktails featuring Sfumato. Take this one, for example:
    https://www.foodandwine.com/drinks/sfumato-liquor-cabinet-roulette

    My gut feeling is that it won't be wasted at all- it has a pretty distinctive flavor, even in the world of amari, and can't help but bend whatever cocktail you use it in towards its own end :wink:.

    For the summertime amari even make great highball spritzes on their own, so you picked the right time of year to get started. Good luck, and remember to post back with whatever you wind up getting. Cheers!
     
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  16. surfcaster

    surfcaster Champion (802) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
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    I would be careful to separate the "bitters" of the old fashion variety and these digestifs. Both are intensely bitter but not sure how interchangeable. I would love to experiment. The bitters of the Agnostura variety (the reference) and the many other that are out are just great. So many different ones are out there to try and come in small quantities for the old fashioned. Although considered heresy, will have an old fashioned with a touch of Blanton's shortly.
     
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  17. Premo88

    Premo88 Poo-Bah (1,782) Jun 6, 2010 Texas
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    I split the difference and picked up a couple that to me look like they're on either end of the spectrum:
    [​IMG]
    The selection of Amari was very small at the liqour store I shopped at, and I was going to pass on buying anything because I couldn't find something recommended. The ingredients list on this Paolo Lazzaroni looked promising (as in NO sugar), so I figured what the hell?

    I'll report back when I open them and start testing.

    Thanks for the help, fellas!
     
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  18. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,611) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    Tonight I'm enjoying Meletti:
    [​IMG]
    I'm really enjoying this one. The base is very much in the spice/caramel ballpark- clove, anise, an almost cedar-like woodiness- but the star of the show is a very vibrant citrus quality, from the airy orange drenched aroma to the lingering oily/resiny citrus peel bitter finish. As a result it's got this beguiling 'satin-studded-with-spikes' feel to it. Fantastic, and I wouldn't mix this one with anything.
     
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  19. surfcaster

    surfcaster Champion (802) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
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    Right on!

    You can spice up a lot with some Paychaud's so find some Absinthe and you are on the way for a Sazerac. Never had that Paolo so definitely report back.
     
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  20. Coronaeus

    Coronaeus Champion (862) Apr 21, 2014 Ontario (Canada)
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    Cynar is my favourite non-beer alcoholic beverage. Love it on ice. Love it with grapefruit or Jaffa orange juice. Great stuff!
     
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  21. Glider

    Glider Aspirant (212) Nov 15, 2004 Massachusetts

    Peychauds is great with Rye, either in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan style drink.

    Sugar is actually fine in Amaro, as they are typically bittersweet. Fernets are kind of an outlier (they are a style with different brands), as they tend to taste very medicinal with a lot of Saffron. Kind of in the realm of Jaegermeister without the sugar. A Toronto or Hanky Panky would be a good cocktail use of Fernet.
     
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  22. Premo88

    Premo88 Poo-Bah (1,782) Jun 6, 2010 Texas
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    Thanks for the info, guys!

    I'm such a newb to bitters that I didn't realize what I was getting into with the fernet. But like Bugs Bunny, I can go along with a gag. :stuck_out_tongue: I'll probably start by making Old Fashioneds and Manhattans with both, just to see the differences. I've got the gin to make a Hanky Panky, so I'll definitely give that a whirl, too.

    Thanks again!
     
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  23. Premo88

    Premo88 Poo-Bah (1,782) Jun 6, 2010 Texas
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    Tried a couple sips of this neat out of curiousity:
    [​IMG]
    As advertised, it is very medicinal and herbal and super bitter. I'm not sure I could learn to drink it straight, but I could see adding ice and soda water and enjoying it that way.

    I dumped that into a tall glass and used it in a makeshift cocktail. Even with Cointreau, rum, Bushmills and lime in the glass, this fernet leads the flavor notes ... it doesn't dominate, but the herbal flavor is always present. Pretty tasty stuff used this way.

    Cheers!
     
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  24. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,611) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    Sounds like a good candidate for the treatment I mentioned upthread- try mixing it with tonic and a splash of oj.
     
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  25. Premo88

    Premo88 Poo-Bah (1,782) Jun 6, 2010 Texas
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    Made this last night ... fresh squeezed OJ with pulp, about 1.5 oz. of the fernet and a little orange peel:
    [​IMG]
    It was pretty tasty, a very easy way to start enjoying the mentholy flavor of the fernet.

    Thanks for the suggestion!
     
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  26. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,611) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    Whoa! You did it one better. Glad you enjoyed it!
     
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  27. Premo88

    Premo88 Poo-Bah (1,782) Jun 6, 2010 Texas
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    It worked out perfect because I happened to have an orange on hand. :wink::grin:

    I want to drink a few of those before doing much more with the fernet, though I can see how I would like it in combination with pretty much everything I've been making -- whiskey sours, bourbon sidecars, old fashioneds in particular, but I think I wouldn't mind a dash of the fernet in a gin and tonic. And there's no doubt it would go well in a mojito with all that mint, then you add a dash of menthol?

    The Peychaud's is much friendlier, but this fernet might find a way of growing on me over time. Glad I got both to start off my bitter journey.
     
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