Best Amaro to Sip Neat, Mix in Cocktails, or Enjoy as a Digestif
Best Amaros to Sip Neat or Mix in Classic Cocktails
1. Amaro Montenegro
Complex and mysterious, amaro is steeped in history and many brands have closely guarded, storied recipes. One of the most famous is Amaro Montenegro, which has been made with the same secret blend of 40 herbs since 1885 when it was first dreamed up in Bologna, Italy. Some amari can be biting and astringent, but Montenegro has a subtle bitterness. “While it’s a favorite of dyed-in-the-wool amaro fans, it’s also gentle enough to coax those who might be hesitant in the realm of bitters,” says Tad Carducci, bartender and director of outreach and engagement for Gruppo Montenegro. For a drinkable dessert, try the “M&M.” It pairs equal parts Amaro Montenegro with mezcal, Carducci recommends, or Montenegro and tonic with an orange slice as a simple alternative to a gin & tonic.
[$34.99, 750 ml bottle; totalwine.com]
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2. Amaro Averna
With a strong backbone of earthy, bitter flavors, this Sicilian liqueur is made with the essential oils of lemons and bitter oranges. It’s the perfect addition for a more complex whiskey sour, says Jeremiah Duncan, beverage director at Wood in Chicago. “I also get notes of black tea and root beer from it,” Duncan says.
[$34.99, 750 ml bottle; drizly.com]
3. J. Rieger’s Caffe Amaro
Think of amaro and your mind probably drifts to the idyllic producing regions of Italy, not Missouri. But hear us out: J. Rieger’s Caffe Amaro, made in collaboration with Kansas City-based coffee roasters, is one that can stand with the best of ‘em. “The Caffe Amaro has become a favorite over the years, with a distinct coffee aroma on the nose and layers of flavor beneath it,” says James Beard Award-winning bartender Charles Joly, co-founder of Crafthouse Cocktails. “The bitterness lands squarely and doesn’t hold back—and that is one of the key attributes we should see in the category.” He recommends sipping it neat or using it in place of a coffee liqueur.
[$29.99, 750 ml bottle; drizly.com]
For those who don’t love the bitter bite of amaro, try Cardamaro, recommends Chuckiy Bement, beverage director of B. Hospitality (The Bristol, Formento’s) in Chicago. It’s made with milk thistle and cardoon (in the sunflower family), which make it a great aperitif or digestif. You can use it instead of vermouth in a cocktail. While light, it still has the spiced components that draw people toward amaro in the first place. And, for its story, it’s made at a historic winery in Canelli owned by the founding family. The cellars also happen to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
[$22.99, 750 ml bottle; drizly.com]
5. Amaro Dell’Erborista
For those looking for a powerful amaro, give Dell’Erborista a try. It’s smoky, bitter, and has hints of amber honey, Bement says. (The smoky qualities come from the herbs and bark that’ve been cooked over woodfire). Bracing and strong, this amaro is one that’s unapologetically in the sipping category, Bement says.
[$64.99, 1L; astorwines.com]
6. Braulio Bormio Amaro Alpine
Braulio is approachable enough for a novice amaro drinker and interesting enough for an expert. “It has a perfect balance of alpine herbaceous notes with dried fruit qualities,” says Ashley Santoro, beverage director at Golden Age Hospitality (as well as Bar Blondeau and Le Crocodile in Brooklyn, NY). Pour it neat, served at cellar temperature, she recommends, or try it with a splash of soda. Hone in on notes of juniper and peppermint.
[$39.99; 1L; totalwine.com]
7. The Pathfinder Hemp and Root
For a non-alcoholic option that’s as complex as full-proof amari, The Pathfinder Hemp and Root is in a category of its own, says Tyler Jones, bar manager at Life on Mars in Seattle, WA. Sometimes he gets earthy, bitter hemp notes, other times baking spices or rich caramel. Try this hemp-based, non-alcoholic spirit as a boilermaker with a crisp mineral water—or simply pour it over rocks with a grapefruit twist.
[$35; 500 ml; drinkthepathfinder.com]
8. Amaro Dell’Etna Antico D’Erbre
Fragrant blood oranges grown at the base of Sicily’s Mt. Etna distinguishes this amaro. Using a recipe from 1901, the makers forage herbs from Mt. Etna. It’s got notes of bitter orange, powdered cocoa, clove, and cinnamon. Expect rich flavor, gentle sweetness, and tremendous terroir from the volcanic soil, says Steven Clement, co-founder of Lost & Found in Cincinnati.
[$36.96; 1L; astorwines.com]