What’s an Amaro?

aperol cynar campari

Amaros are already very popular in the craft bartending scene, so it’s a good idea to get you home bartenders on board as well. An “amaro” is an Italian bitter liqueur, usually meant as a aperitif (before-dinner drink) or digestif (after-dinner drink). I realize that I talk about bitters all the time, but remember there are 2 types of bitters: drinkable and non-drinkable. Angostura bitters are meant as a cocktail flavoring, you’d never pour a bunch on ice and drink it straight. Amaros are drinkable bitters, though.

There are a long list of Amaros, but 3 of the most popular are Campari, Aperol, and Cynar (pronounced CHEE-nar). The bitterness of these helps to offset the sweetness that liqueurs have, and all three of these are good served over ice, mixed with club soda, or in a cocktail.

Campari you’ll recognize as an essential ingredient for the Negroni. It’s electric red, slightly bitter (think orange rind bitter), but also quite sweet and low in alcohol (about 20%).

Aperol is similar to Campari, though it’s lower in alcohol (11%) and more orangey, both in color and flavor. It’s very refreshing and easy to drink, and I use it as a substitute for Campari in a Negroni, or just serve it over ice after dinner.

Cynar is a dark, herbal liqueur that’s 13% alcohol. It’s primary flavor is artichoke – note the glorious artichoke logo on the bottle above. The flavor of Cynar reminded me a little bit of Fernet Branca, minus the mintiness, or maybe like a less sweet Jagermeister. It’s an herbal, slightly syrupy, drink with a dry, clean finish. Drink Spirits recommends it as a top 10 liquor to carry in a flask.

Here’s a Cynar recipe, a take on a Manhattan, originally published in Imbibe Magazine:

Little Italy

  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • 1/2 oz Cynar
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • stir on ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with 2 cherries
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