Dinner was excellent. Steak and and a great bottle of Brunello. Dessert elevated the experience-bitter chocolate soufflé. Getting up and heading to the bar for a coffee with a full stomach is quite a task “A short espresso please.” Ahh the lingering tastes of the bitter-sweet chocolate and the warm mouthcoating espresso. Now what? Dessert wine? Grappa? How about an amaro?

In short, an amaro is an italian digestif (after dinner drink) made with neutral alcohol, infused with spices, fruit, herbs, plants sweetened with sugar. AND ITS BITTER!

Reese’s Pieces or Radicchio?
The north american palette prefers sweet rather than bitter. At a young age, kids become addicted to sugary foods and snacks and build a tolerance for all that is sweet. Junk food, fast food, Coca Cola, corrupt the palette to accept sugar-laden foods and reject the bitter. Bitter foods have a love-hate relationship. Some people adore the peppery kick of arugola. Others take a sip of amaro and say its tastes like cough medicine.

Holy Alchemists
Amaro was originally discovered by monks around the 1700’s. Gathering surrounding quinine, anise, rhubarb, gentian, and mixing with alcohol and sugar they stumbled upon different recipes and used them for medicinal purposes. Its too bad the monks weren’t entrepeneurs.

With sales in well into the hundreds of millions, they had something good going.

Amaro became popular and was commercialised outside of the monasteries around the late 1800’s. Montenegro, Averna and Lucano, are three popular ones from Italy, Jagermeister from Germany, Chartreuse from France and Unicum from Hungary.

The next time you choose an after dinner drink, try an amaro. You’ll be glad you did. If you’re a beginner, ask for it on ice. The cubes will cool off the sugar and mellow the bitterness. All three Amari will settle the stomach in no time. After some getting used-to an amaro will be as much a part of the after meal experience as a cigarette. Just don’t ask the bartender about soccer.
Let’s taste...


This bitter is made in Bologna. Aruguably Italy’s culinary capital. Created in 1885 by distiller and herbalist, Stanislao Cobianchi. The name "Montenegro" is a dedication to the beautiful princess Elena of Montenegro, who was engaged to former king of Italy Vittorio Emanuele III. Famous Italian writer Gabriele D’Annunzio called Montenegro the liquer of the virtues”. The colour is copper with tinges of red. The amaro of the three with the least amount of sugar. The nose is dominated by notes of nuts, clove, citrus peel and vegetal notes. Discover quinine, and botanical flavours on the medium bodied palette and the finish is smooth and clean.


Legend says a recipe for an amaro was given to Don Salvatore Averna in the 1800’s by monks in reciprocation for his work with the church. He brought this recipe home set up shop and began commercialising his own naming it after himself-Amaro Averna.

Averna is an opaque-black coloured elixir. Deliciously sweet and syrupy with notes of liqourice and orange peel. It is rich in texture and full bodied in mouthfeel. The first sip coats the palate with sweet and bitter flavours of caramel and anise.
Amaro Lucano

Amaro Lucano comes from the town of Pisticci, Lucania in the Basilicata Region in Southern Italy. Its popularity is thanks to the hard work of Mr. Pasquale Vena. The Vena family owned a café in the town square and was first known for making esquisite biscuits. In 1894, Pasquale perfected his secret recipe for a liqueur and the rest is history. The Amaro Lucano label he chose is perhaps the most original of all the amaros and has not changed in 100 years. It is homage to the region. The colour is similar to Averna’s. Dark Brown with copper tinges. The nose is herbaceous with little intensity. Medium bodied, a touch medicinal, with peppermint, caramel and nutty flavours. This one falls in the middle of the three in terms of sweetness.

The foreground depicts a lady wearing the traditional dress of Lucania. She holds a basket of dried herbs used to create the liqueur. The background depicts an eagle with the words labour and honesty-two of the company’s mottos. Below the eagle are the crests of the dukes of Savoy and Aosta- Two of the firms biggest and noble customers.