Melissa here, back at it, serving up know-how, pro-tips, and product comparisons from a decade of mixing it all. Last time I reviewed mixers great for Palomas, but this time I'm excited to talk about Amaro. We’ve noticed a recent increase in interest from you all, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Bitter tends to be an acquired taste to most palettes so don’t be surprised if you don’t enjoy it at first, I didn’t! I’ve been into this category of liqueur for most of a decade and I love how many people have decided to join me on the bittersweet side of life. Most amaros (or amari if you pluralize properly in Italian) are made in Italy but American distillers have been creating their own versions more and more.
Wherever it is made there is huge variety within the category. As a general rule of thumb an amaro lighter in color tends to be lighter in body and is best enjoyed as an aperitivo before a meal and those darker in color are richer in body and fantastic for settling your stomach after an indulgent meal.
Some are better sipped on their own, some are great for mixing into cocktails. Come see our huge selection in person in the store!
I recently learned that carciofo is considered its own subcategory of amaro. This is the Italian word for artichoke but given that we’ve only seen Cynar here in the States I just hadn’t given it much thought (Cardamaro is close but actually made with a different thistle, the cardoon). Everyone asks if Cynar really tastes like artichokes and it is certainly vegetal but balanced with other herbs and spices. The result is complex and delicious.
Originally Cynar was bottled at 55 proof but the current version is 33 proof. It can step into a lot of the places you’d use Campari and is lovely with soda and a slice of orange on a hot afternoon. Bartenders fell in love with this quirky spirit but its light body made it a bit of a challenge to feature as a base spirit in cocktails.
Enter Cynar 70, which is less diluted than its sibling to come in at, you guessed it, 70 proof. This Cynar is still nice, if a little dangerous, with soda but can now hold its own in a drink. It’s also a comparable alternative if you’re burnt out on that San Francisco favorite, Fernet.
C3 is made with three different kinds of artichokes (I visited their Washington DC distillery last month and while I was there Francesco found a piece of artichoke on the floor that was missed in clean up from production). It’s labeled an aperitivo but it’s medium bodied and bottled at 46 proof. It’s less sweet than Cynar and a little more savory.
Amaro Aplomado is made right here in the Bay Area at Falcon Spirits in Richmond. It is quite dry and very bitter. This one clocks in at 64 proof so it’s now sitting on my bar cart ready for sipping as a nightcap.
Want one drink to test them all? How about the Little Italy? Audrey Saunders created this drink at New York’s Pegu Club using Cynar but it is a great place to try out all of the suddenly plentiful variety of artichoke amaros!
2oz Rye whiskey
.75oz Sweet vermouth
Stir ingredients with ice, strain, and serve up. Garnish with two cocktail cherries.