Our February 3st of the Month is all about "Bitter Lovers," but this means more than just cocktail bitters. In part two of our "bitter blog" posts, we wanted to talk about amaris, aperitifs and digestifs. Though each of these has their own special place in history, they also have something in common - the use of herbs and botanicals to impart unique flavors.
Without getting on too much of a soapbox here, we just want to point out that the flavor of bitter is something that we as a culture seem to have neglected until recent years. Not only can it enhance other flavors, but it can also stimulate appetite, digestion and even reduce inflammation. The point is, we're thrilled to showcase some of the most specialized products out there and can't wait for Bitter Lovers!!!
Plural for amaro, amaris are the general classification of herbal liquors. Literally translated from Italian to mean "bitter," an amaro is most often made by macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark and/or citrus peels in a base of spirt or wine before blending with a sugar syrup to sweeten and allowing to mature. These are different from cocktail bitters in that they typically have a much lower proof and are meant to be consumed neat or on the rocks as a digestif after a meal. What's even more fascinating is the variety of flavors you'll find among different varieties, most of which fall into one of ten classifications.
Medium - These typically have an alcohol percentage in 30-32% range and are well-balanced with sweet, bitter and citrus flavors. An example of a medium amaro is Averna Amaro, which will be served at Bitter Lovers.
Fernet - Like the most commonly-known Fernet Branca, Fernet amaris are much sharper in flavor, with more bitterness and even mint-like flavors.
Light - As the name suggests, these are not only lighter in color, but in flavor as well. Perhaps the best-known variety is Amaro Nonino.
Alpine - These are flavored with "Alpine" herbs and often have a lower alcohol content and a light smoky taste. An example would be Amaro Braulio, which will also be served at Bitter Lovers.
Vermouth - Yup, these are wine-based amari. Typically very low in alcohol, they start with a base of white wine and are enhanced with herbs and sugar to create the finished product.
Carciofo - These are unique in that the key flavoring ingredient is artichoke. The most common variety is Cynar, which will also be served at Bitter Lovers.
Tartufo - Hailing from the central Italian region of Umbria, these amari are flavored with black truffles.
China - Made with the bark of chinchona, the plant that gave us quinine and ultimately tonic water, these amaris have a distinctive flavor.
Rabarbaro - As the name might suggest, these are made with rhubarb. The most well-known variety will be served at Bitter Lovers, Zucca.
Miscellaneous - Flavors such as honey, fennel and unripe green walnuts round out the tenth catch-all category.
While amaris are often consumed as a digestif after a meal, the category of digestifs includes more than just amaris. An example of this would be Chartreuse - the herbal French liqueur (it will also be served at Bitter Lovers).
And while digestifs are typically consumed after a meal, aperitifs are consumed prior to the meal. Thought to help aid in appetite, digestifs such as Campari and Aperol have been made for generations. Guess what, we'll have both of those at Bitter Lovers too!
But just because amaris, digestifs and aperitifs have been consumed for centuries with a single purpose does not mean that they can't have a new use. Today, many are making their way into craft cocktails, thanks to their complex flavor profiles. Even some classics like a good Negroni and Boulevardier call for one of the best known of these, Campari.
Looking to get inspired to work these herbal elements into your next cocktail? We hope so! Check out our recipes below.