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