❄️ DRINK BETTER Winter Amaro
Sooooo, what is amaro again? Lol. It’s actually super confusing, because amaro isn’t always called amaro – it’s sometimes called vermouth, carciofo etc. Essentially it’s a medicinal Italian herbal liqueur and it’s defined by how and when you drink them: amaro is traditionally an after-dinner digestif, aperitivo is before dinner (we don’t make the rules, Italy does). They’re usually made with a bunch of botanicals, sometimes up to 30-plus, and lean super bitter, a little syrupy but not sweet – the word amaro, FYI, is Italian for bitter.
You could say all kinds of amari are having a bit of a moment which is cool given how long it’s been around. Amaro used to be made hyper-locally by Tuscan monks for their medicinal/digestive benefits from foraged local herbs and spices, resulting in a diverse range of different drinks, each a snapshot of its region.
These days monks probably aren’t making them but you may have tried it with Coke. As our friend Ed Loveday tells us (bartender in spirit and one of the guys behind a couple of hatted restaurants) Fernet and Coke is the unofficial drink of Argentina and basically a global bartender’s handshake. Rule of thumb for drinking: a sweet amaro with a sweet mixer is too hectic, unless that’s your thing. Super bitter and sweet = nice. Solo, over ice, in a spritz, or with soda is also good. Whatever way, there’s a drink in here made with artichokes and tree bark – and who doesn’t love drinking artichokes?
Levi Serafino Amaro della Donna Selvatica - $115
From the best grappa maker in the world. Honestly there isn’t heaps to say about this other than you should try it before it’s gone. The recipe is ancient and also is made from indigenous hops. Super, super limited and if you’re already into amaro this should probably be on your shelf.
Chinati Vergano Americano - $160
I hate to say this one’s a ‘cult classic,’ but this one is a cult classic. Soz. Made by an Italian chemist, similarish to a vermouth but more of a bittersweet drink. The inclusion of dried Italian pantry herbs in the ageing is a good vibe.
Select Aperitivo - $36
Occasionally 10 degrees is good for a spritz? Don’t you reckon? I do. When it does hit, Select Aperitivo is a good op, a classic amaro. It’s made with 30 botanicals including rhubarb roots which I thought were poisonous, but maybe that’s just the leaves? Anyway, it’s good with soda. Nice price too.
Lyre’s Amaretti - $45
Not amaro but classic bitter almond, candied vanilla, good for sours, cake soaking, over ice etc. Serving all your amaretto needs, but with big, zero-alcohol, dry July vibes.
Aetnae Etna Aperitif - $58
This has all the hallmarks of the best amaro: Sicilian oranges, hand-harvested almonds, local herbs. Yesss. This Sicily situation is wine-based and is pretty almondy. Good post-pasta, pre-nap.
Chinati Vergano Centerbe - $95
As the name suggests, this amaro is actually a vermouth and is made from wine. Named after a liquor made from 1200 (the year) with 100 ingredients. It was originally used as a remedy to cure the plague!! Vergano bypasses 70 herbs and uses about 30, including fennel and anise seeds. Sip solo or with fizz.
Chinati Vergano Luli - $80
Last but not least is this white version of Barolo Chinato which is possibly Piemonte’s most famous digestif. This is the one made from bark! The bark of quinine (or “China”) tree, the chief botanical here, to be precise. It’s super delicious, bitter-herby.