Bitters, Amari Lead At Balena & Purple Pig | Chicago

In most cocktails, classic and nouveau, bitters and amari play supporting roles.

On the new drink lists at Balena and The Purple Pig, though, they take the lead, starring in every drink.

Balena: A trip to the Averna distillery in Sicily started mixologist Debbi Peek's bitters love affair. At Balena, she inverts the traditional cocktail ratio by using an amaro as the base and spirits as a secondary ingredient. Templeton Rye backs up a double dose of Averna in the Francesco, a version of a Manhattan. Aged rum plays to the caramel notes of Amaro CioCiaro and Carpano Antica in the Carmella.

The drinks ($11) are labeled on a bitterness scale from one to 10–and we beelined for the list's lone 10, the FIB ("Flippin' Intensely Bitter"), a refreshing, botanical-heavy combination of Amaro dell'Erborista, Ransom gin, fresh grapefruit and basil.

The Purple Pig The Mag Mile restaurant's first cocktail list launched last month, with amari as its backbone. Some tread the bitter path gently, like Il Saggio ($11), with gin, sage simple syrup, lemon and a touch of Nonino amaro. Then there's the Darkside ($13)–bold, smoky and rich, with Averna, maraschino liqueur, gin and a Laphroaig Scotch rinse.

Balena, 1633 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-3888 or
The Purple Pig, 500 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-464-1744 or