The traditional Italian liqueur is finding new life at a bar near you
IF YOU THINK CARB-LOADING on Uber Eats’ finest pasta while scrolling through your Capri holiday #TBTS is akin to eating like the Italians do, think again. It’s time to embrace the digestif – an alcoholic drink consumed in Italy after dinner and intended to aid digestion. The Italians’ beverage of choice with which to do so? Amaro.
While the word translates literally to “bitter” in Italian, there’s nothing to be mad about when it comes to the delicious, syrupy spirit. Not to be confused with amaretto, amari (the plural of amaro) is the name given to bitter herbal tinctures, often with floral and citrus notes, and usually enjoyed neat or on the rocks. Campari and Aperol are technically amari, but there are countless variations from all over Italy, and plenty other inspired versions being made elsewhere (like our own Adelaide Hills Distillery’s The Bitter Orange; or British brand Stellacello’s Amaro London, which has just landed in Australia).
For a starting point, try Amaro Montenegro. The palatable crowd favourite has notes of orange peel, nutmeg and cinnamon, plus it’s light in colour and flavour. Amaro Nonino is also a good entry-level amari. Can’t bring yourself to drink it straight?
Order an Americano (Campari with sweet vermouth and soda water).
Amid its extensive list of amari, Sydney bar Bistecca (bistecca.com.au) does a grown-up take on the “spider”, with Fernet Branca Amaro, cola and ice-cream.
Matt Bax, owner of Melbourne’s Bar Americano (baramericano.com), is an Amari fan because of the “magical way it relieves the effects of gluttony”. The tiny laneway bar heroes an amaro of the week, and even bottles their own version, the Amaro Americano.
If you’re looking for something more complex, he recommends Florentine perfume house Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella’s range of amari. “For something special, try their Elisir di China. I also love everything [Italian distillers] Nardini make. You’ll find their charming little bar and store perched upon the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. It’s about as good as anywhere to sip on a glass of amaro.” Saluti!