Americans are drinking more amaro than ever – have you tried it? (2023)

It seems like everywhere I look, people are drinking amaro. Maybe you've seen itFlorence PughTake a walk through Venice with oneAperol Spritz. Or you couldn't ignore social media posts about itEmma D'Arcys ikoniske "Negroni Wrong"....with Prosecco in it.” Whether you're an Amaro newbie or sip some every weekend, there's no doubt it's fun.

But what exactly is Amaro? In its simplest terms, it's an Italian-style bittersweet liqueur. Amari, the plural of amaro, is an umbrella category that includes spirits from all parts of Italy that come in a variety of colors and flavors.

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Digging into all the Amaro flavors can get complicated, so I consulted with the beverage director.Podcast-moderator, and Amaro expertSother Teague. Teague opened the first bitter bar in the United States over ten years and bitterness, in New York's East Village. Since then, he has spearheaded a movement to bring bitters and Amari closer to Americans. More than just adding a dash of Angostura bitters to oneOld-fashionedTeague focuses on craft bitters and amari in his cocktails. For him, every Amaro has the potential to be the protagonist of every bar cart.

"I love the fact that [Amari] is not the same, and there's no way to compare them. It's not even about comparing apples and oranges. It's about comparing apples and carbs," Teague says.

No matter how you define and organize Amari, each bottle is part of a tradition.

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It is onlylivedif it comes from Champagne in France; otherwise it's just sparkling wine.Bourbonmust follow a whole set of rules to officially receive his title. Amaro, on the other hand, is like the wild west of ghosts. Rather than being subject to strict classifications, Amari follows loose traditions dating back thousands of years. Making medicinal tinctures using local botanicals is an ancient practice that extends far beyond Italy. The first bitters were invented long ago to preserve nutrients.

"We all used to be self-sufficient," Teague says. "Drain things, get them off the ground, and then you'll have more than you can use before winter comes. How do you save on those calories? They discovered the distillation of these vegetables, roots, herbs, grasses and flowers. And now it has a shelf life, and they could eat it well into the winter.”

Italian monks and nuns in the Middle Ages made their own tonics intended to aid digestion and stimulate the appetite. Each producer sourced herbs and botanicals originally from their region, and local flavors developed over time. “There are also differences within each region. It's unique from city to city, backyard to backyard,” says Teague.

One flavor you will taste in all of them, however, is bitterness. Actually the wordamarotranslates directly tobitter.

“Our brain perceives bitterness as a threat, just like poison. Every time you taste bitter, your brain sets off an alarm to remove it from your body," says Teague. "How does your body get things out? It moves things through your digestive tract.”

Many of these bitter liqueurs were and still are referred to as aperitifs and digestifs. The former was meant to empty the stomach before a meal, the latter should be drunk after a meal to digest it properly. So you could say that the once-prescription remedies for stomach aches are now enjoyed for pleasure.

“I think my first experience [with Amaro] was similar to many other chefsFernet Branca", says Patrick Miller, founder of the American brand AmaroUgly face. “I didn't have a frame of reference for so much bitterness and so much aggressiveness in one drink. "Like drinking coffee, you just learn to understand and appreciate it."

According to author Brad Thomas Parsons, the early 19th century ushered in a new era for amaro. “The beginning ofanti-clericalism movementin Italy forced many monasteries to stop production,” he writes in his bookAmaro: The vibrant world of bittersweet herbal liqueurs with cocktails, recipes and formulas.

Some producers retained their small-scale methods, while others expanded rapidly. This started Amaro's transformation from homemade medicinal pick-me-up to commercial alcoholic beverage. Fratelli Branca Distillerie, Fernet Branca's parent company, spent most of the 20th century opening distilleries in Italy, Argentina, Switzerland and even New York City.

Amaro brands also played an important role in cementing a distinctly Italian drinking culture.Campari, which opened its first production facility in 1904, transformed the Italian beverage industry with its role in the country's signature cocktail:Negroni.

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Throughout the 20th century, Italian Amaro brands such as Campari and Ramazzotti commissioned renowned artists to create posters that cemented their cultural relevance.

The brand hired Italian artists, including acclaimed filmmaker Federico Fellini, to create stunning,Avant-garde advertisingThis further substantiated Campari's social relevance. The brand is now run by a nearly $20 billion company that has acquired other Amari brands throughout Italy.

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Until recently, the selection of Italian spirits in the US was largely limited to big brands like Campari, Aperol and Fernet Branca. And even these have historically been relegated to the back bar or an after-dinner liquor pickup list.

Then, in the early 2000s, cities across America saw a resurgence of craft cocktails. When the movement was still in its infancy, a few common Amaro brands made their way into our glasses. Demand for Italian bitters rose steadily until it seemingly exploded in the mid-2010s. Niche brands that could only be found in Europe hit American shelves, bartenders found even more ways to incorporate them into cocktails, and consumers started filling up their own bottles. Many Amari are now household names.

“One thing I find phenomenal is the vast majority of Aperol sprays, which are everything. I'd say three to five years ago, we weren't nearly as ready to drink one, and they weren't as ubiquitous as they are," Teague says. "The same goes for the Negroni. I remember for the life of me, after bartending for 22 years, being surprised to see someone order a Negroni. The changes have been quite big.”

Bartenders not only make classic Italian cocktails, but also use Amari to incorporate bitter elements into their own unique recipes. And with more niche Amari being used, Americans now have more access to rare bottles than ever before.

"It's a wonderful time to be consuming Italian spirits, whether made here or elsewhere, because there's so much more of it than there is on the market," says Louis Catizone, producer of American brand AmaroSt. In the desert. “There is a brand calledBitter Silanfrom Calabria, where my father is from. We used to smuggle bottles back from Calabria in a suitcase. You wouldn't even see that in other parts of Italy, and now it's here in the United States."

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Due to the demand for Italian spirits in the United States, several brands have appeared in the United States over the past decade. Out ofBrug-Fi appetizersalso in Napa ValleyGulch Distillersin Montana andDon Ciccio & SöhneIn Washington DC American brands with Italian flair can be found in almost every corner of the country.

Some American producers stick to tradition, while others diverge and develop their own flavor profiles. At St. Agrestis, a Brooklyn-based distillery, uses historical methods to guide every stage of their production process.

“We worked really hard to take a step back in time and pay homage to the way herbal aperitifs and digestifs were made in Italy,” said Catizone. “Our process is very esoteric, in a way exactly how all brands were made back then and how the smaller brands are still made today. We happen to be doing it in Brooklyn.”

However, trying to figure out how the old Amaro makers used to do it is easier said than done. European liqueur brands tend to keep their methods and ingredients hidden, sometimes even finding legal loopholes.

Chartreuse, the French brand known for its top secret recipe known only to usto karteusermunke, addressed the AmericanBureau for Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Tradeto get one of thempotionsapproved for sale in the United States. "The monks approached TTB and said, 'We want to sell this in America, but we don't want to tell you what's in it.'" What if we gave you the 130 ingredients, but they were on a list of 400 Submit ingredients?'" reveals Teague. “If all the ingredients on the list are approved, then it doesn't matter what they are, does it? So TTB said yes, and the Chartreuse recipe can remain a secret."

Some American amaro producers, like Patrick Miller and his brand Faccia Gross, have had to dig through centuries-old records to create their own recipes. "It took years of research and extensive Internet searches to find books from the 19th century that people had scanned and put online," he says. "I'm always learning."

OnFront Garden SpiritsIn Brooklyn, owners Daniel de la Nuez and Aaron Sing Fox make spirits that pay homage to old-school production styles but break new ground.

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Forthave Spirit's red aperitivo is a workhorse in any cocktail, but also takes center stage when served with a splash of seltzer and olives.

“We started collecting as many vintage bottles as we could. And we found that as we got further away, they were actually agricultural products. Then, in the 1970s, we saw them increasingly become industrial products with artificial colors and processed sugar,” says de la Nuez. "Many of them are essentially manufacturers of chemical flavorings. So what we want to do is bring it back to its original state, so to speak, and transfer our take on that story to the world today."

As for the Italians? Apparently, some aren't too keen on America's burgeoning amaro industry. "In Italy there is an undercurrent of people who really believe that Amaro should have official standards, such as:IGT or DOC designation. If it's not Italian, you can't call it Amaro,' says Miller.

Teague works closely with Italian Amaro brands, many of which seem uninterested in changing their ways to cater to American drinkers. "I try to get them to put at least three or four descriptors, whether those ingredients are in the bottle or not, just to give Americans an idea of ​​what it tastes like," he says. "They'll brag about having over 56 ingredients. But can you tell me which ones? NONE."

With or without the backing of old-school Amaro makers, the American bar scene continues to embrace this new homegrown tradition with gusto. American distilleries continue to pop up from coast to coast, expanding their spirits portfolio and facilities. And now we have more Amaro options than ever before.

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Centrebe by Faccia Gross, reminiscent of Chartreuse, is an herbal liqueur with flavors of lemon, coriander and tarragon.

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When you enter Amaro's world, don't expect to fall in love with her right away. "If you like these things off the bat, you're a runaway," Teague says. "You have to take the risk, try it, then put it back on your bar cart and try it a week later. You can't sneak up on it; you have to get used to it."

Part of this has to do with our biological aversion to bitterness. "We can only taste five things: sweet, salty, sour, umami and bitter. Of those five, only one is an acquired taste," says Teague.

But like other bitter foods like broccoli, chocolate and beer, you learn to love it and appreciate the nuances in each bottle. A good way to make amaro easier to enjoy is to dilute it with seltzer, which makes the bitterness more palatable without masking the taste. You can also try classic Italian cocktails like thatNegroni. The drink's herbal, bitter notes bring out the best aspects of Amaro.

If you're looking for something milder, try its predecessor, theAmericano. This cocktail was invented by Campari founder Gaspare Campari way back in the 1860s. The addition of sweet vermouth and soda tamed Campari's characteristic bitterness and won the hearts of the American expats, hence the name.

In addition to classic Italian drinks, bartenders across the United States have embraced amaro as an ingredient in their own craft cocktails. One drink that has become widely known is thispaper airplane, which bartender Sam Ross invented by mixing equal parts bourbon,Aperol,Amaro Nonino Quintessentiaand lemon juice. The Forthave team were excited to see their red aperitivo paired with chiliMezcal, carrot and lemon juice, burnt cinnamon and salt in the Carrot Drink cocktail in the restaurantrollsi Queens, New York.

But if you want to stick with tradition, Amaro purists argue that the best way to drink it is the old-fashioned way: neat. On its own, each Amaro's unique combination of herbal ingredients really shines.

Would you like to explore the world of Amaro? See some of our favorite bottles.

Americans are drinking more amaro than ever – have you tried it? (10)

Americans are drinking more amaro than ever – have you tried it? (11)


"I grew up on Campari. It's always been a staple in our family spirits cabinet." - Louis Catizone

Americans are drinking more amaro than ever – have you tried it? (12)

Front garden Marseille

Rhubarb, raw honey and cinnamon are among the botanical blends that make up this delicately sweet, nuanced amaro. A perfect after-dinner sip.

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Antico Amaro Noveis

"It's a balanced, well-made Amaro that I think can last through the seasons." - Louis Catizone

Americans are drinking more amaro than ever – have you tried it? (14)

Do grim Fernet plants

A tribute to the classic Fernet style with notes of peppermint and gentian root. Best enjoyed neat or in the classic Argentinian way - with a shot of Coca Cola.

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herbal bitters

A favorite across the board. "Low alcohol, unfiltered, sweet honey notes." -David De La Nuez
“The most beautiful Amaro there is. It's perfect." -Louie Catizone

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Santa Maria al Monte

"A Fernet-style Amaro from Liguria. And it has really strong notes of saffron and fennel. I go through this too easily." –Patrick Miller

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St. Wild Paradise Aperitivo

The perfect starter spirit for anyone new to the world of Amaro. Its bright citrus notes and minimal bitterness are ideal as an aperitif or cocktail mixer.

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Bitter Sybil

Same manufacturer as Dell'Eborista. "Higher proof, a little more bitter and a little under the radar." - Aaron Sing Fox
"It's very complex." -Patrick Miller

Photography by Andrew Bui | Food styling by Makinze Gore

Plakat in der Reihenfolge: Mondadori Portfolio / Hulton Fine Art Collection / Getty Images, Swim Ink 2, LLC/ Corbis Historical / Getty Images, Heritage Images / Hulton Archive / Getty Images, Marka / Universal Images Group / Getty Images, History and Art Collection / Alto Vintage Images / Alamy Stock Photo, Heritage Images / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Americans are drinking more amaro than ever – have you tried it? (19)

Americans are drinking more amaro than ever – have you tried it? (20)

Gabby Romero

editorial assistant

Gabby Romero is Delish's editorial assistant, where she writes stories about the latest TikTok trends, develops recipes, and answers all your cooking-related questions. She loves to eat spicy food, collect cookbooks and add a mountain of parmesan to every dish she can.

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