Amari: Bitter liqueurs from Italy and beyond
Amari common in the U.S.
- Amaro CioCiaro
- Dark brown, bitter orange, herbal, earthy, not much pie spice, medium sweetness, medium bitterness. Maybe used in a reproduction of Amer Picon. Excellent.
- Amaro Lucano
- Dark brown, pie spice, some citrus, medium sweetness, medium bitterness. Excellent.
- Amaro Nonino
- Amber / reddish, partially grappa-based, herbal, acomplex, caramel, anise. Medium-low sweetness, less bitter . Excellent sipping amaro. Widely available. Relatively expensive. From Fruili, Italy. 35% ABV.
- Dark brown, pie spice, raisins, medium sweetness, medium bitterness. Excellent. Widely available. From Sicily.
- Luxardo Amaro Abano
- Dark brown, strong black pepper spice, unlike other amari, medium sweetness, medium bitterness. Excellent.
- Dark brown, strong chocolate flavor. Unique. Medium sweetness, medium bitterness. Widely available.
- Strong orange flavor. Very sweet. Mildly bitter.
- Nardini Amaro
- Mahogany. Bitter orange, peppermint, anise. 1L sized bottle. 31% ABV.
- Deep brown. Strong cola and pie spice flavor. Excellent mixing amaro. Widely available. Highly recommended.
- Riga Black Balsams
- Near black, intensely bitter and herbal. From Latvia. 45% ABV.
- Branca Menta
- Greenish brown. Huge mint flavor with menthol undertones. Fairly sweet and only slightly bitter. Harder to find that Fernet Branca.
- Fernet Branca
- Medium brown. Intensely bitter with a peppermint nose and huge methol on the palate. Useful in cocktails and appreciated solo only by brave amari enthusiasts. Not for the uninitiated. Made in Lombardia, Italy. Widely available.
- Luxardo Fernet
- Light brown. Very similar to Fernet Branca. Less expensive.
Other bitter liqueurs
- Vibrant orange. Orange/tangerine fruit (not peel) flavor. Subtle rhubarb flavor. Accessible; great first bitter liqueur. Mixes extremely well. Widely available. Lightly bitter. Medium-low sweetness. Highly recommended.
- Strong cinnamon, almost tropical flavor. Mildly bitter. Accessible. Widely available. Made in the Czech Republic. 38% ABV.
- The king of bitter liqueurs. Vibrant red. Widely available. Citrus flavors. Medium bitterness. Key ingredient in many cocktails. Medium-low sweetness. Widely available. Highly recommended. 24% ABV.
- Brown. Made from artichokes. Savory and unusual. Excellent in cocktails and on the rocks with lemon. 11% ABV. Highly recommended. 16.5% ABV.
- Brown. Herbal and sweet. Medium-low bitterness. High quality, depsite surprising popularity with young drinkers. Made in Germany. Highly recommended. 35% ABV.
- Luxardo Bitter
- Very similar to Campari, possibly intentionally. More floral / perfumed than Campari. Substantially cheaper, at least in some markets.
- Punt e Mes
- Not normally considered an amaro, Punt e Mes is a strongly bigger sweet vermouth. Recommended.
- Zwack Liqueur
- Known as Zwack Next outside the U.S. Dark brown. Cherry and fruit flavors with a pleasing bitterness. Quite sweet. (Zwack Unicum, the original, much more intensely bitter and less sweet liqueur, is not imported into the U.S. Sigh.) Made in Hungary. 40% ABV.
Note: All of these are technically amari. Amaro means bitter in Italian. Amer means bitter in French. Still, many don't think of Campari, for example, as an amaro.
Unusual amari (spotily available in the U.S.)
- Amaro Montenegro
- Amber, light orange flavor, very sweet, less bitter than average. Popular in Italy. Tame. 23% ABV.
- Medium brown, mildly bitter, wine flavors. Made from wine, Cardoon (a thistle-like relative of the artichoke) and Blessed Thistle. Very mild, accessible sipping amaro. 17% ABV.
- Grappa-based with mint, orange, and bitter flavors. 1 L bottle. 31% ABV.
- Medium brown, bitter, savory, similar to Cynar. A Rabarbaro, made from Rhubarb. Compared to Aperol (also made from rhubarb, Zucca is much stronger in flavor and bitterness and without an orange flavor. 17%A ABV. Recommended.