Amaro: Bitter Goodness

A buddy of mine came in the other day looking for a "killer" amaro.  Luckily, the wine geeks on staff are huge fans of amaro and we have a great selection to choose from. If you’re not familiar with amaro, let me break it down for you: Amaro (Italian for "bitter") is an Italian herbal liqueur that is enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif. It usually has a bitter-sweet flavor. The term amaro is only applied to Italian products of this kind. That is, until we (Americans) started making it. Amaro is typically produced by macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark, and/or citrus peels in alcohol, either neutral spirits or wine, mixing the filtrate with sugar syrup, and allowing the mixture to age in casks or bottles. Amaro is typically enjoyed neat, sometimes with a citrus wedge. It can also be enjoyed on ice or with tonic water.

Growing up in an Italian family I got to see amaro in action at an early age. After dinner the bottle and tiny glasses would come out. In my family it is consumed neat and chilled. The first time I had a sip (I think I was 18) I came to the conclusion that I never had to try it again. As with many things in life you have to try them a few times to truly appreciate them. Fast forward a few years (OK, more than a few years) and now I always have a bottle or three on hand. The one you see below, Balsam Amaro Americano, has been in my fridge waiting for the perfect moment to pop the cork. 

I'm a bit of a traditionalist and was hesitant to try an American amaro. The other night, sparked by my conversation earlier in the store with my buddy, I opened it and tried it. WOW! Here are the notes I scribbled: Very good, super complex with the struggle between sweet and bitter being won by bitter, hard lined around the edges, at 88 proof it's no joke and not for the faint at heart. Not sure I would put this one in the hands of someone that has never experienced amaro. If you're intrigued and want to try one, I would suggest Amaro Nonino, similar complexity but much more polished.


Just to confuse things a bit more, that day I sold my buddy a bottle of Cappellano Barolo Chinato.... which is the same but different. Think of it as an amaro (which it technically is) built on top of a fine Barolo. The result is a softer, more gentle amaro. The Cappellano is also a great way to dip your toes into the pool we call amaro.

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Amaro Averna (750)
Amaro Averna (750ml)

"Averna's smooth, perfectly bittersweet taste has made it Italy's most celebrated spirit. Drink Spontaneously"
--Distilley Notes

Price:   $32.99
Amaro Nonino (750)
Amaro Nonino (750ml)

Amaro Nonino has an earthy nose with notes of bitter-orange and cinnamon. Followed by a hint of burnt caramel coming through at the end. The palate has that grown-up bitter-sweet taste; achieved by the addition of sugar, so as... Read More

Price:   $53.99
Marolo Barolo Chinato (750)
Marolo Barolo Chinato (750ml)

The base is a several-year-old Barolo wine and therefore very mellow. It is enriched with a hydro-alcoholic infusion (2.2%) of herbs, roots, barks and natural spices with the addition of 15% sugar. It is aged 2 years in 60 gallon... Read More

Original price: $76.99
Sale price:  $44.00
On Sale. No Further Discounts Will Apply
Ramazzotti Amaro (750)
Ramazzotti Amaro (750ml)

Clear, dark brown color, and CRAZY intricate nose: cola, clove, quinine, bitter orange, black licorice. I pick up something new with every sniff. Velvety soft but dense mouth feel. Again, super complex flavors; dark chocolate,... Read More

Price:   $29.99
Varnelli Amaro Sibilla (1000)
Varnelli Amaro Sibilla (1L)

The Varnelli distillery, in Italy’s Marche, was founded in 1868 by Girolamo Varnelli. He used his expertise in his region’s native, medicinal plants to develop numerous recipes for distillates and bitters, including... Read More

Price:   $54.99


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