Yes, the ingredients are uncommon. Yes, you have to wait five weeks to taste the finished product. But Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is quality amaro. Elliot Strathmann, co-owner of acclaimed Italian resto Spuntino in Denver, says his recipe "leans towards traditional northern Italian styles," and you can expect a final product that's lighter in color than what you'd find in commercial bottles. As for the ingredients: Online purveyors like Mountain Rose Herbs and local specialty shops will have what you need to get started.
If you can't find a specific ingredient, just leave it out, as part of the magic is that everyone's blend will be unique. Possible additional ingredients you can add—fresh or dried—include peppermint, rosemary, juniper, saffron, citrus peel, fennel seed, berries, cinnamon, cardamom and coriander. The world is your empty amaro bottle.
Yield: 1 liter
Prep Time: 5 minutes, plus 5 weeks maceration time
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes, plus 5 weeks maceration time
350 milliliters 192-proof neutral grain spirit (such as Everclear; can substitute with high-proof vodka)
150 milliliters water (omit if using high-proof vodka)
Sugar (white or raw) or honey
4 grams Gentiana lutea root
5 grams bitter orange peel
2 grams dandelion root
3 grams licorice root
3 grams German chamomile (dried flowers)
3 grams cinchona bark
4 grams Turkish rhubarb root
Optional ingredients as desired (see headnote)
1. In a 1-liter glass container that can be easily sealed, combine the alcohol and water.
2. Grind the remaining desired ingredients together in a mortar and pestle and add to the alcohol/water base.
3. Seal the container and allow the ingredients to infuse, preferably in a dark place that's not too cold, for about 5 weeks.
4. After the maceration period, combine water and your desired sweetener in a pot and heat until the sugar is totally dissolved. Allow to cool completely.
5. Add small amounts of syrup and water to your maceration, and start tasting once the container is about two-thirds full, then fill the remaining volume with water or syrup to the desired sweetness. This will produce an amaro of about 34 percent ABV.
6. Filter immediately through clean untreated muslin or several layers of cheesecloth, or let the final mixture rest for a few more days before filtering (this will allow for better integration).
7. The amaro will be best if allowed to sit for several more weeks once finished, but it's ready to taste once filtered.
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