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Three Ways to Enjoy Amaro Cocktails This Summer


Forget Campari: amaro's the summer spirit your taste buds have been craving for.

We've gotten bitter. Blame it on Campari, which rose to prominence when the Negroni became summer's chicest drink. Now, with our taste buds primed, we're eager to explore that kicky spirit's amaro siblings.

A versatile liqueur, amaro can be flavored with anything from citrus peels to roots to artichokes. Its bite is thought to be great for digestion, to stimulate the appetite before a meal or get the gears moving after one. Lighter brews like Campari and Aperol fall into the pre-dinner category (known as aperitivi) and are often served in spritzes. Digestivi, the after-dinner contingent, are usually darker and more herbal, like the punchy fernet.

Part of amaro's stateside allure has been its Italian accent, all sexy old-school labels and historic backstories. But as more bartenders become familiar with it and more distillers look to strut their stuff, American amari is building its own cred. Italian amaro varieties are super regional, lifting their flavors from local products and native plants. But why should we have to rely on someone else's hometown pride for a good stiff drink?

Southern Amaro, produced by High Wire Distilling, in Charleston, S.C., is as native as it gets. "We didn't want to just knock off standard Italian amari," says co-owner Ann Marshall, "so we drew inspiration from our local landscape." High Wire's amaro uses yaupon holly, a wild-foraged indigenous shrub, and black tea from nearby Wadmalaw Island, home to the only tea plantation in the U.S. The result is similar to the Bolognese Amaro Montenegro, but 100% South Carolina.

In 2013, Brovo Spirits, outside Seattle, teamed with local bartenders for a limited-edition range of amari. Project Amaro was so popular, three of its brews are now year-round staples. At Joule, a Seattle restaurant, beverage director Spencer Schwartz riffs on the white Negroni with tequila and spicy Brovo Amaro #04, composed by Patrick Haight. And Chicago's Rodrick Markus, owner of Rare Tea Cellar, takes it even further with Balsam, an amaro you can mix with wine for a vermouth-style aperitivo. But distillers don't have to reinvent the wheel. Denver's Leopold Bros. used the classic Campari formula for their aperitivo, originally created for co-
owner Todd Leopold's wedding. He made just two tweaks, adding all-natural coloring and, for a Western touch, sarsaparilla root.

The bottom line: Wherever you are, there's likely an amaro being made. So take some time to taste your town, just like the Italians do.


Black Manhattan
Courtesy of Ann Marshall, High Wire Distilling, Charleston, S.C.*

2 oz. rye
1 oz. High Wire Southern Amaro
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Orange rind for garnish

Stir all the ingredients together over ice. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a strip of orange rind.

*A favorite at High Wire headquarters

There's Always Amaro
Courtesy of Nicki DeVenuto, the Grocery, Charleston, S.C.

1 oz. bourbon

1/2 oz. creme de cassis

1/2 oz. High Wire Southern Amaro

1 dash orange bitters

Orange peel

Combine all the ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Stir well, and then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

Courtesy of Spencer Schwartz, Joule Restaurant, Seattle

1 oz. Brovo Amaro #04
1 oz. blanco tequila
1 oz. Dolin Blanc

Combine all three ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir, and then strain into a coupe.

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Regan Hofman