When the first autumn leaf hits the ground, it's time to break out the dark, contemplative sippers. And amari—Italy's bracingly bitter liqueurs—neatly fit the bill.
We caught up with Brad Thomas Parsons, the author of Bitters, who is at work on a new book about amaro to be published by Ten Speed Press, and asked him about the allure of the dark, vegetal digestif.
"I think there's a growing appreciation for bitter flavors in drinks," Parsons says. "The continued 'rediscovery' of the Negroni has turned more people on to bitterness as a driving taste sensation in the glass. Bartenders and cocktail geeks have known this for a while, but we're in the midst of a new wave of amaro awareness."
Furthermore, amaro makes sense for fall drinking, he says: "The cooler weather [means] we tend to say goodbye to summer spritzes and al fresco aperitifs and make room for earthy amaro—either on its own or as a bitter component in a cocktail." It's also the preferred digestif to cap off the season's heartier fare, he adds.
While we love the classics, we're also excited about some interesting new amaros heading our way. Here's the catch: These aren't Italian and one isn't even made with booze.
Amaro di Angostura: The company best known for bitters and Trinidadian rum unveiled this product at Tales of the Cocktail in honor of the company's 190th anniversary. The traditional Ango bitters will form the base, plus a secretive mixture of more spices and a neutral alcohol, all of which is aged for three months.
BroVo's Amaro Project, Chicago Edition: This Seattle-based producer has developed a range of amaros all "authored" in conjunction with bartenders. This fall, look for bottles designed by Chicago bartenders, such as Mike Ryan's (Sable Kitchen & Bar) bitter chocolate-inspired Amaro No. 14 and Steven Cole's Amaro No. 16, spiked with artichoke, dandelion and burdock root. Maybe it's all the Malort those Windy City barkeeps toss back, but BroVo co-founder Mhairi Voelsgen describes the Chicago amaros as particularly "intense, bitter and complex."
Buho Amaro cola: Yep, even if you don't drink, there's an amaro for you too, buddy. New Orleans bitters maker Bittermens teamed up with South America soda maker LOBA Estudio to produce this non-alcoholic ginger cola, with a bite designed to resemble Italy's famed Fernet. The soda launched in New Orleans in July, and will be available in other metro markets this fall.
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