Drinks

A Better Bitter

The charms of a newly available Italian liqueur

We Americans like to think that Italians live La Dolce Vita.

But truth be told, what they really like is bitterness, so often in the form of the bitter liqueur amaro. And at last, one of the country's best amari is finally available in the United States.

Amaro Braulio ($32 for 750 ml) is made in the Italian Alps using a 138-year-old secret family recipe. The formula is so well guarded that the farmers who pick herbs for Braulio sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Such furtiveness doesn't impress U.S. authorities, who demand an ingredient list for new imports. As a result, we now know that Braulio gets its distinctive flavor from 13 botanicals, including peppermint, star anise and bitter orange, as well as several plants unique to the Italian Alps.

The herbs are infused in base alcohol, which is aged two years in oak barrels. The final product is a light, floral amaro with a pleasant balance of sweetness and bitterness, and is delicious over ice, especially after dinner.

How did word spread about a fairly obscure spirit? Braulio comes from a ski-resort area, Valtellina, popular with visitors from Milan. Many bars in Milan carry it; once tasted, Braulio becomes an obsession.

We've fallen for it in Italy. Time to bring that fixation home.

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