Every Amaro shares three elements: an alcohol base, bittering agents, and often-secret signature flavors. The bittering agent might be gentian or wormwood, cinchona or angelica. The myriad flavoring agents—some recipes run upwards of 60—may include cardamom and orange peel, licorice and myrrh. Italy has hundreds of these bracing, historically medicinal herbal potions, their shades of bitterness ranging from subtle to aggressive. Amari tease out the sophisticated palate, their forbidding flavors signaling danger to our evolutionary brains. This herbal complexity makes them a cerebral bartender’s dream.
Ravinder Singh, bar manager at Macellaio, first fell in love working with amari at Boulevardier. On his watch, almost every cocktail has a bitter note.
“I’ve always erred on the drier side of cocktails,” he says. “Sometimes it’s kind of overwhelming.” Happily, he’s finding that the Dallas palate is evolving. “People are understanding that things don’t have to be sweet.”
His gateway for customers unsure of what to try aside from the cocktail list is to concoct a 50-50 blend of half rye, half amari. “I stir it and hand it to them. And usually they love it.”
Amaro flights also allow him to branch out, with liqueurs that may not have had distributorship until recently, like Lazzaroni Fernet Amaro.
“Everyone should just approach it with an open mind,” Singh recommends. “It’s OK not to like it. Just try it.”