Learn with A Bar Above

Amari

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What Are Amari?

Amari are a bitter-sweet herbal liqueur that tends to use similar botanicals to vermouth. They are often served as an aperitif or digestif (before or after a meal), but are seeing much more use recently in cocktails. They are a great way to add an herbal complexity without dropping the overall proof of a cocktail as much as would happen with a Vermouth.

How They are Made:

To simplify, Amari are basically an herbal infused liquor with quite a bit of sugar added. If we refer back to our alcohols section, you can see that Amari are essentially just liqueurs that have been infused with botanicals. Like vermouths (and everything else in this chapter), they generally have a slight bittering taste. The high sugar does usually offset quite a bit of this bitterness.

Photo by _gee_ / CC BY

Amari in Cocktails

Due to their strong flavor and relatively high proof, Amari aren’t used as frequently in cocktails. In my opinion, that is a missed opportunity! Amari bridge the gap between liqueurs and bitters, and if used well can take the place of both in a drink. Take care to adjust the rest of your drink to compensate – you’ll need 1/4 of an ounce of Amari or more to replace bitters, which certainly impacts overall volume.

Sweetness:

Amari can differ drastically in their sweetness levels and it’s important to take that into account when building a cocktail. If working with an unfamiliar product, be sure to taste it first. As we’ll discuss in more detail in the Balance module, high sweetness can actually counteract bitterness – so paying close attention to the sweetness level in the Amaro you are using will be important for adjusting the rest of the drink’s components for balance.

Most Common Styles of Amaro Behind the Bar:

The specific flavors and characteristics of each Amaro will vary by brand, but here are a few common types with their common characteristics.

Type Tasting Use in Cocktails Example
Light Generally fairly balanced with slight emphasis on citrus, with a hint of nuttiness. Reminds me of a light tawny port. This style of amri would be a good candidate as a substitute for a richer dry vermouth, or as a replacement for some lighter sweet vermouths. Amaro Nonino, Amaro del Capo
Medium Sweeter on the palate and good balance of citrus bitterness with toffee and caramel sweetness. Can be used as a sweeter replacement for sweet vermouth. Try to offset some of the additional sweetness by using a higher proof  spirit, or additional bitters. Luxardo, Averna, Gran Classico Bitters, Amaro Montenegro
Fernet Bartender gold, one of the most bitter examples of this category, minty, dark and powerful. Can be used as a replacement for bitters in cocktails- a little goes a long way and you may need to increase sweetness of other ingredients in order to tame it down. Fernet Branca, Fernet Cinzano
Carciofo Made with a mix of herbs and plants but artichoke is predominant flavor. Classic drinks mix with soda or tonic water, cola or milk/eggnog.  In Switzerland & Southern Germany it’s common to mix with orange juice. Cynar