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How to Drink Amaro: Understanding Italian Amaro Bitters

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Mar 28, 2020 • 1 min read

Wildly complex on the nose and easy on the way down, amaro is an herbal liqueur from Italy that makes for a final flourish at the end of a good meal. With notes ranging from biting menthol to fragrant cardamom, citrusy orange peel to woodsy chamomile, amaro offers a glimpse into the infinite flavor combinations of the botanical world.

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Lynnette Marrero & Ryan Chetiyawardana Teach MixologyLynnette Marrero & Ryan Chetiyawardana Teach Mixology

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What Is Amaro?

Amaro is a broad category of regional Italian bitters. (Amaro is Italian for “bitter.”) Made from either a neutral spirit or brandy, this bitter liqueur is a staple in the Italian lifestyle. A curated blend of botanical ingredients—typically an inherited recipe that includes herbs, spices, and flowers, as well as barks and roots like gentian root, cinchona, and wormwood—gives each variety of amaro its unique flavor.

Amaro liqueur styles vary depending on the region in which they’re produced; Alpine amaro tends to be spice- and mint-heavy, while coastal amaro is generally lighter-bodied and more citrus-forward. Ingredients in other amaro styles include licorice, star anise, artichoke, and rhubarb. There are no strict rules when it comes to amaro production, and most recipes are closely guarded family secrets. Ultimately, each producer is free to exhibit their own style.

How to Serve Amaro

For the most part, you’ll find bittersweet amaro, like Fernet-Branca, served neat as an after-dinner drink. Traditionally consumed at sundown or enjoyed as a midnight digestif, amaro that is dark, full-bodied, and densely spiced aids with digestion and makes for an ideal nightcap when served neat.

Amaro labeled “aperitivo” tends to be light-bodied and low in alcohol, making it the ideal beverage to enjoy before a meal. Since they’re quite bitter on their own, amari like Campari, Cynar, and Aperol beg for a lengthener like soda water or a sparkling wine like prosecco to truly shine. A classic example of this type of aperitif is the Aperol Spritz.

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Learn more about mixology from award-winning bartenders. Refine your palate, explore the world of spirits, and shake up the perfect cocktail for your next gathering with the MasterClass All-Access Pass.

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