Your crash-course in Italian amaro, plus four dishes to pair it with for your next dinner party. Cin cin!
Italians have many great traditions when it comes to living La Dolce Vita, and one of them is drinking a small glass of amaro, or herbal Italian digestivo after dinner. This once uncommon liqueur in the US is now thankfully on the rise and amaro is popping up in restaurants and bars everywhere. But exactly what is amaro liqueur?
What Is Amaro Liqueur?
Amaro literally translates to ‘bitter’ in Italian, but there is so much more to the flavor profile due to the myriad of herbs and flowers that are macerated together in order to make the digestivo. It is said that amaro was created hundreds of years ago in monasteries and pharmacies to be used for its medicinal properties. Today, we drink it simply because it tastes delicious after a big meal, is lower in alcohol than most spirits and since it helps settle the stomach then what’s not to love? Bonus - a little bit goes a long way, so what seems like a splurge will last a while whether sipping it over ice or adding it into spritzes or cocktails.
With an abundance of options it can be a little overwhelming to understand this digestivo and where to begin. Some of the most common Italian amari (plural!) that are easily accessible in the states are Campari, Fernet and Ramazzotti. Below we highlight four amari to get you started -- ranging from traditional Italian to new American made brands all paired with Giada’s recipes for a well-rounded evening of entertaining like an Italian.
Why we love it: An Italian classic, Vecchio Amaro del Capo is a fun introduction and stepping stone to the world of amari. Created from 29 herbs, flowers, fruits and herbs from the Calabrian region of Italy, it goes down smooth and easy without coming across too bitter. This amaro starts with bittersweet orange, followed by floral notes of chamomile and orange blossom, and finished with mint, aniseed and licorice. This makes a great bottle to start with when building up your amari collection!
Pair it with: Create a Calabrian inspired pairing with a glass of Vecchio Amaro del Capo while snacking on this popcorn as an aperitivo.
Why we love it: Cynar (pronounced CHEE-NAR) is the lesser-known amaro in the Campari family, but should be on everyone’s bar cart. Part of what makes it so special is the key ingredient of artichokes mixed along with 13 other herbs. We like it over ice or as a surprise ingredient in cocktails.
Pair it with: Try it in Giada’s Artichoke Manhattan for an unexpected take on the classic cocktail.
Why we love it: St. Agrestis Amaro is a Giadzy team favorite! Made in Brooklyn, the light bodied amaro is crafted from 20 botanicals that are macerated and soaked in the spirit for up to 8 weeks while aged in whiskey barrels. The flavors are familiar to the American palette, starting with notes of cinnamon, clove and allspice that morph into a cooling effect of spearmint and peppermint, ending with a delicious burst of sarsaparilla. It’s gorgeous to sip on slowly after a meal and without a syrupy finish. St. Agrestis also just released their new red Italian bitter, rich in color and overflowing with floral and herbaceous aromatics of bitter cherry and hibiscus – perfect over ice or in a spritz this summer!
Pair it with: Try pouring 1 or 2 ounces of the St. Agrestis Amaro over your favorite vanilla gelato!
Why we love it: Created in downtown LA, this organic certified amaro is truly the essence of California in a bottle and also makes for a light digestivo or spritz. Inspired by the Golden State’s landscape of fruits, herbs and the famous California poppy, other citrus ingredients include grapefruit, orange and lemon to give it a refreshing taste after a meal.
Pair it with: Enjoy this with a batch of Lemon Cheesecake Brownies.