Admittedly, amaro takes a little getting used to, especially if you’re used to sweet liqueurs. Amaro is a style of liqueur that ranges in bitterness from mild to very, very bitter. Best sipped after dinner (as a digestivo), I encourage you to become accustomed to this drink. Originally considered to be an effect aid to digestion after a meal, I’d argue that it’s just plain good, and a wonderful way to cap off a great dinner.
Averna Amaro Siciliano
The original recipe for this heavy amaro was given to Salvatore Averna by Benedictine friars in 1859. Averna quickly established itself as the drink of choice for Italian nobility: in 1912, King Vittorio Emanuele III permitted Averna to carry the House of Savoy’s coat-of-arms. Averna has a dark, thick appearance, not unlike iodine. It is quite sweet beneath a pronounced flavour of burnt orange, burnt sugar and a little burnt rubber.
This lighter, amber-coloured amaro is named after Elena of Montenegro (1873-1952), the Queen of Italy. In an article from a 1900 edition of the New York Times, Queen Elena was described as having a face like a Byzantine Madonna but, “an expression of languor and seeming lack of initiative.” Her namesake is likewise mellow, with a pleasing blend of walnuts, cinnamon and marzipan. It is well-balanced and delicious.
Ramazotti Amaro Felsina
This is one of the oldest commercial amaro, dating back to 1815 when Dr Ramazzotti created this tonic in Milan. It contains sweet oranges from Sicily, bitter oranges from Curacao, anise and oregano. The resulting brew isn’t as smoky as Averna or as candied as Amaro Montenegro, but it is more complex than either. Expect notes of lime leaf, pistachio, mint and a whiff of Vicks VapoRub. Topped with a long, tangy aftertaste.