Bitingly bitter and rich with herbs, amari are most commonly enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif. However, bartenders are flipping the script by incorporating the herbal liqueurs into cocktails to be enjoyed before or during a meal. Here are 8 amazing amaro cocktails that prove you don’t need to save the best for last.
Belgrade by Night at Baba, Arlington, Virginia
Old Overholt Rye is mixed with a blend of amari, sweet vermouth, and cane syrup. The cocktail has dark coffee and black pepper notes and boasts a complex bitterness. Bartenders recommend it to guests who normally gravitate to scotch, cognac, and Fernet Branca. Make a reservation at Baba.
Mr. Wiggles at Maven, San Francisco, California
Mr. Wiggles sounds so much more playful than Manhattan, which is what many would call this cocktail. Made with bourbon, amaro, vermouth, and bitters, it’s a classic with a sly smile. And potentially a reference to a legendary street dancer of the same name whose popping videos you should most definitely take the time to hunt down and watch. Make a reservation at Maven.
How Jefferson Woulda Liked It at Farmers & Distillers, Washington, D.C.
Housemade “never bitter” amaro forms the backbone of this cocktail along with their very own rye, which adds a dark depth while lemon juice lightens. Best of all, on Saturdays and Sundays, you can take a tour of the on-site distillery where the spirits are made. Make a reservation at Farmers & Distillers.
Jimmy Two Times at il Porcellino, Chicago, Illinois
Refreshing, rind-rich grapefruit helps make this drink super refreshing. The citrus plays well with Nonino Amaro with its acidic profile and cinnamon accents. Bartenders shake the drink hard, so it takes on a thick texture similar to that of an egg-white sour. Make a reservation at il Porcellino.
Tonico Piccante at Lupo Verde, Washington, D.C.
Amaro Tonico Ferro-Kina and orangey Don Ciccio Mandarinetto get an effervescent lift from tonic water and prosecco. For a fiery finish, house-made Peperoncino bitters go into the mix and chili peppers garnish the drink. Guaranteed to put some pep in your step. Make a reservation at Lupo Verde.
Magic School Bus at Glass & Vine, Coconut Grove, Florida
Cachaça and Aperol power this tropical tipple. Salted passion fruit and lime juice add tempered tartness. It’s finished with a sprig of mint. Make a reservation at Glass & Vine.
Coffee & Cigarettes at Succotash, National Harbor, Maryland
Some pairings are forever: PB&J, milk and cookies, coffee and cigarettes. St. George coffee liqueur and Havana & Hide bitters provide the namesake flavors. Meanwhile, Maker’s Mark and Carpano Antica give it real punch. Make a reservation at Succotash.
Expat, Playboy at Urbana, Washington, D.C.
Lead Bartender Andrea Tateosian wanted to give props to legendary barman Peter Dorelli, otherwise known as the Italian Playboy. So she created this appropriately suave and swanky sipper with Tanqueray gin, Cocchi Americano, and Montenegro Amaro. We’re sure the Italian Playboy would approve. Make a reservation at Urbana.
Have you been sipping Amaro cocktails this summer? Let us know here or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. And, remember to snap + share your #dishpics with us on Instagram for a chance to win in our weekly giveaway.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Grove Bay Hospitality (Glass & Vine).