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Jan 28, 2013 12:27 PM

what amaro should I try next?

I've been slowly trying my way through various amaros (for sipping neat and/or cocktail usage), and I was wondering what I should try next. Some impressions of amaros and other herbal liquors to show my preferences:

Averna: candy-sweet, but good in cocktails. A little too sweet for me most of the time by itself.
Ramazotti: I like Averna slightly better, but it's very similar.
Luxardo: I...don't remember what I thought of it? I think I liked it a little better than the Averna because it wasn't quite as sweet, but haven't seen it available since the one bottle I bought.
Meletti amaro: the only one I've really disliked -- maybe it was the saffron? I actually dumped the end of the bottle because I just wasn't drinking it.
Cynar: currently my favorite as a digestif -- sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.
Aperol: lovely in soda water in summer, don't tend to drink it neat
Campari: just plain awesome -- like it in cocktails, neat, in soda, everywhere.
Green Chartreuse: a little too anise-y for me, but I like it in cocktails when in the right mood

So what should I try next? I'm not super big on mint or anise flavors.

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  1. Chartreuse isn't really an amaro because it isn't bitter. It is herbal.

    Luxardo makes three. "Bitter" is red and Campari-like. "Abano" has a strong black pepper flavor, and makes interesting cocktails. And a Fernet (see below).

    And that Meletti makes an interesting flip. I think you gave up too soon.

    See if you can find Nonino. It is similar to Averna, but much less sweet and higher alcohol. It is grappa base, and a bit on the expensive side.

    Ramazzotti is very useful in cocktails and pretty widely available. Despite having something of a cola flavor, it is very good. A bit sweet for sipping, probably.

    Very hard to find, but both Sibilia and dell'Erborista are very high quality, very expensive, very bitter, and very good.

    And then there's Fernet Branca (or Luxardo or other Fernet-style amari), which is an important cocktail ingredient. It has a heavy menthol flavor, so I like it mostly in small doses.

    If you like Campari, Gran Classico is similar, but more floral. It is interesting and worth seeking out. Use it where you would use Campari.

    -- | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

    12 Replies
    1. re: EvergreenDan

      Dan, after the prior thread on this I've visited the parking lot of Liquor World in Porter on three occasions, hoping to get bottles of Sibilia and dell'Erborista. All three times I've given up after circling for 10 minutes or so. That place is a complete zoo. Any other local sightings?

      1. re: davis_sq_pro

        What!! I've never, ever, been unable to find a spot. You driving a Hummer?

        There is also parking behind the building next door where Pier One used to be. It's for shopping in that building, so be sure to, uh, buy a taco from Anna's Taqueria.

        There are also meters on Mass Ave. If you head toward Arlington, you will eventually find a spot. You may have to walk a little.

        No, I have not noticed it elsewhere.

      2. re: EvergreenDan

        That's why I said impressions of "bitters and other herbals" -- mostly I wanted to give an impression of my level of anise tolerance. Fernet and its brethren would probably be too menthol-y for me.

        The Meletti had an overwhelming rubbing-alcohol scent to me; the rest of the flavor wasn't enough to find ways to mix it to get rid of that. Maybe I'll try it in a bar at some point to see if I had a bad bottle.

        The Luxardo was the Abano -- I liked it, I just couldn't remember exactly what it was like, but black pepper reminded me.

        I'll look for the Nonino and the Gran Classico next, I think. Thanks!

        (And apparently I should drop by Porter Square to do so. As I don't have a car, I won't have trouble finding parking.)

        1. re: antimony

          Weird, I definitely wouldn't say Meletti has a rubbing alcohol scent - it's sweet and almost chocolaty to me. It took me a while to get into it, but now it's a favorite (I add a bit to manhattans, along with some mole bitters, to make a "chocolate manhattan" - doesn't really taste like chocolate but evokes it somehow). Try another taste at a bar!

          1. re: monopod

            I too get chocolate from Meletti. More of a gestalt of chocolate. Try using it where you see Creme de Cacao. It's not my favorite, but it is fairly widely available and quite different from other "pie spice" amari.


            1. re: EvergreenDan

              I really think there must have been something off about the bottle I had, then, since it was very bland aside from the cheap alcohol esters.

              I did, however, manage to take both the explicit and implicit suggestion and dropped by Porter Square last night -- wow, I hadn't realized how nice of a selection they have. I associate that store with cheap wine, as that's what I bought there when I was a broke grad student and it was closer to where I lived.

              I picked up the Nonino (and a bottle of Laird's Bottled In Bond). I only had a sip -- didn't really want a drink when I got home, but did want to taste it, and I really like how not-sweet it is. At the price I'll keep it for when I want amaro neat rather than in a cocktail.

              They had the Gran Classico, too, but there's only so much room in the liquor cabinet; I'll pick it up some other time.

            2. re: monopod

              Since this got bumped, I thought I'd update -- I did try Meletti at a bar, and still found it bland but without the offputting flavors, so I think I did have a bad bottle somehow. I'm still not a fan, but I think it really is that I don't like saffron that much.

              Have also acquired a bottle of Zucca, which I really like.

            1. re: EvergreenDan

              I like Gran Classico a lot. I actually have a bottle on a shelf above my desk so I can have a wee sip every now and then to settle my stomach, or liven my day. The flavor is great, but at times the extremely long bitter finish can be a bit much. in cocktails it really shines.

              1. re: EvergreenDan

                Well, several months later and I've finally acquired both the Sibilia and dell'Erborista.

                Impressions, in case anyone else is interested in these:

                These are some very interesting amari, to say the least. They seem to be the same formula, but the Sibilia is bottled at 34% ABV (IIRC; I'm not sitting in front of the bottle), and the dell'Erborista at 20% ABV. Furthermore, the Sibilia is filtered and has the typical clean dark reddish look I'm accustomed to with amari, whereas the dell'Erborista is unfiltered and pours a dirty/cloudy brown.

                The honey presence in both of these liqueurs is amazing. Much more apparent on the nose, to me, than with other honey-sweetened liqueurs I've tried (e.g. Drambuie), especially with the dell'Erborista. This carries through to the flavor, which I found to be somewhat less complex (not necessarily a bad thing) than many of the amari in my collection. I noticed primarily some herbal brightness and some warm spice notes, everything dominated by the honey.

                The bitterness on the end, as Dan noted, is intense (dell'Erborista) to extreme (Sibilia -- this stuff kicks hard, and the bitterness lasts and lasts and lasts on the palate -- 5 minutes or more).

                Both were in the $60 range, and I wish I'd only bought one bottle. But which one? They're very similar in flavor, and generally speaking when given the option I'll go with a spirit at higher proof -- I can always cut it with some water. Of course, the dell'Erborista is unique in my collection as my only unfiltered amaro. This might, in theory, translate into more depth, but I'm not really getting that. On the contrary -- and maybe it's just my eyes telling me what they think I should taste -- I find the dell'Erborista slightly muddy and the Sibilia's flavor cleaner and more intense. This intensity, alas, comes at the expense of some of that amazing honey flavor, but for me the Sibilia is the winner -- at least after sampling an ounce or so of each. Further research is clearly warranted.

                Thanks, Dan, for the pointer!

                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                  Thanks for the review. I look forward to trying those, and many more. I was just appointed beverage director for a small but growing restaurant group, and in one of the Italian restaurants bar I am getting every amaro, bitters, aperitif/digestif that is available in NY state, and doing high end cocktails and implementing a clear block ice program with hand carving.

                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                    Glad you liked them. I guess I didn't try them back-to-back because I didn't notice that they were that similar. I guess I need to compare them.

                    You'll drink them both up eventually. I usually mix with Amari, but these I drink neat.

                2. Have you tried Amaro Montenegro (my favorite)....

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: prio girl

                    Whoops, chow put my comment in the wrong place -- I haven't, but I'll put it on the list, thanks!

                    1. re: antimony

                      Let me know what you think - cin cin!

                    2. re: prio girl

                      I do not recommend Montenegro for this case. Reason being that Montenegro is perhaps the sweetest and least bitter amaro available, and the OP mentioned that Averna--which is significantly more robust--is too sweet.

                      I also find Montenegro to have a weird chemical aftertaste, but perhaps that's just me.

                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        Oh, that's interesting. I'm not big on sweet flavors but I do prefer Montenegro because of it's mellow and fragrant taste. I never noticed any chemical aftertaste.

                        I have a few amari, including
                        Amaro Trentino by Dr. Cappelletti - it is very herbal. I don't know if it's available here in the States, mine was a gift from relatives in Italy.

                        1. re: davis_sq_pro

                          I tried the Montenegro for the first time last spring and I really liked it. I also think it is a good amaro for introducing someone to the category.

                      2. I know this is a six-month old thread, but an article appeared in the WASHINGTON POST yesterday that may be of interest to folks still on an Amaro quest.

                        Here's the link:

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Indy 67

                          I am late to the party but no one mentioned Amaro del Capo! See if you can find it in your area. It is similar to Montenegro or Santa Maria al Monte.

                          1. I recently went though and re-formatted a list of amari into table with more data. I still have another dozen or two bottles of more obscure amari to catalog.


                            2 Replies
                            1. re: EvergreenDan

                              There's the new Angostura one, too. I'm really looking forward to trying it.


                              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                Wow. Not to be confused with the Mexican Amargo-Vallet Angostura amaro

                                Or their Fernet, which I haven't found yet.