Back in July, Beverage Director Amanda Reed had a rare opportunity to serve on a panel at Proof, the Washington distillers’ festival. When organizers put the event together they wanted presentations on “use the booze”—or how to utilize things already in the home bar. Reed, who last year shared the podium with Chef Varin Keokitvon for a presentation on food and cocktail pairings, was fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with Paul Clarke—author of Cocktail Chronicles and executive editor of Imbibe—together, the two would talk on apertifs, amari, and digestifs.
“It was a botanical bonanza,” says Reed.
The talk was 45 minutes, followed by drinks for the crowd. A spritz to start using her locally made Brovo “Pretty” Vermouth Blanc and soda, and the modern classic Black Manhattan made by Reed, which was a chance to show off how amari can be used in place of vermouth in a cocktail that is easy to recreate in your home bar. It’s a natural substitute. The bitter-sweet Italian liqueur—amaro or amari (plural)—is traditionally drank after a large meal in order to aid digestion, also known as a digestif.
“We had a lot of interest in the amari lecture,” says Reed. “I take for granted how the general public hasn’t fully embraced that category yet.” In fact, there was so much interest that after the lecture Reed had people asking for copies of an amari tech sheet she had created.
“As a category it is one of the most diverse,” says Reed. “There is no standard formula. Different base spirits, and a plethora of herbs and botanicals that can be used, make for vast differences from brand to brand.”
While amaro may seem foreign to some a home, it has a storied history in American cocktail culture. Drinks such as the Hanky Panky make use of one of the better-known brands of amaro—Fernet Branca. Today, amaro is a common ingredient in craft cocktails. Including, The Usual, already a modern classic a Heartwood Provisions.
2 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1/2 oz Amaro Nardini
1/4 oz Demerara Syrup (1:1)
1 dash Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters
Garnish: Orange Peel
Combine ingredients in a mixing vessel. Stir. Strain into a bucket. Add ice. Garnish.