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Amaro – Shelf Life and Favorites


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33 replies to this topic

#1 weinoo

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 07:07 AM

What is the conventional wisdom regarding shelf life of various amaros? Should they be refrigerated?

What are everyone's favorites?
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#2 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 12:44 PM

I've never seen any restaurants and bars put them in the fridge ... and, let's face it, places aren't going to go through them especially quickly.

I really like Averna and Nonino. I enjoyed Sibilia for something different but I'm struggling to find a source locally. Fernet Branca has its uses and I like it in the right context, but the herbal toothpaste quality isn't my favourite thing in the world. Cynar is fun. Montenegro reminds me of musk sticks (the lollies).

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#3 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 01:57 PM

I like Averna, Montenegro and Cynar. In the aperitif category (are these still considered amari?), I really like Suze and Campari, but am on the fence regarding Aperol (not distinctive enough/too mild). Amer Picon is another good one.
I also have Fernet Branca which is ok in small amounts.
I keep the Cynar and the Suze in the fridge and the other ones at room temperature, with the logic being the relatively low alcohol content (< 20%).

#4 Tri2Cook

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 02:29 PM

I'm only familiar with what I have (and I don't actually know if all of them are considered amari)... Lucano, Fernet Branca, Cynar, Campari and Aperol. I like all of them and I keep them all in the cabinet, not the fridge.
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#5 Zachary

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 03:26 PM

I love love love Amari, and wish there were more readily available in the US. I have the following amari/aperitifs

Campari (old and new)
Aperol
Torani Amer
Cynar
Amer Picon (French)
Gran Classico
Luxardo Amaro Abano
del Capo
Ramazzotti
Suze (French)
Cora
Fernet Branca
Branca Menta
Maraska Pelincovac
Zwack Unicum
Sibilla
Braulio
Lazzaroni
Genepy (alpine gentian liqueur)

I'd love to get a hold of Nonino, L'Erboriste, Braulio Riserva, and Lucano, or any other weird things ;)

Oh, and like Sherry, the browner they are, the less you need to worry about them. I wouldn't store anything (maybe Aperol) in the fridge, though.

Thanks,

Zachary

#6 KD1191

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Posted 23 October 2012 - 08:48 PM

I keep all of mine on the bar, and have never had an issue with spoilage...of those I have (shown & listed below), I like Averna (rocks) & Nonino (neat) the most for sipping. Campari is obviously what I reach for most to use in Cocktails, with the original Picon being a relatively new addition that has been getting used quite a bit (making many a Brooklyn or Creole).

IMG_20121023_194244 (1).jpg

Amaro CioCiaro
Amaro Nonino
Amer Picon (78 proof)
Aperol
Averna
Campari
Cynar
Dr. Nielsen's Bitter
Fernet Branca
Fernet Leopold
Gammel Dansk
Gentiane des Pères Chartreux
Gran Classico Bitter
Picon Biere (36 proof)
Picon 'Violet Hour' (? proof)
Ramazzotti
Suze
Unicum (not pictured...in the freezer, because I tend to ony drink it neat and prefer it very cold)
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#7 weinoo

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:05 AM

Nice collection. Are Campari and Aperol both considered amaros?
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#8 EvergreenDan

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 06:19 AM

@weinoo: Yes. Both are bitter liqueurs from Italy. An amaro may be a digestivo or an aperitivo (or I suppose neither). There is some grey area for wine-base amari, where one might consider them an aromatized wine. Cardamaro, for example, although given that it has amaro in the name, I think that seals the deal.

I see this is morphing into the "amaro baller" thread. Excellent!
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#9 Yojimbo

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 09:34 AM

If we're talking favorites here, based on what you reach for most often, mine would be CioCiaro, simply because it mixes well with a bunch of different stuff, and doesn't overwhelm; and because until recently, it was the best Picon substitute I could find for a proper Brooklyn cocktail (nod to Spliflicator for the tip). I also have Bitterman's Amer Nouvelle, which is a more accurate Picon recreation, and really nice, but because it's twice the price I find myself being miserly with it.

I almost consider Campari/Aperol as in a class by themselves; namely: one of the essential Negroni ingredients that must be stocked at all times. I tend to prefer Aperol in summer for its lightness, and Campari in cooler weather, but that's a rough rule.
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#10 EvergreenDan

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 10:48 AM

OK. May I play too?

Aperol
Becherovka
Bitter Truth E**X**R
Bittermen's Amere Nouvelle
Boudreau (homemade)
Campari
del Capo
Cardamaro
China Martini
CioCiaro
Cynar
dell' Erborista
Fernet Branca
Fernet Menta
Gran Classico
Lucano
Luxardo Abano
Luxardo Bitter
Meletti
Mio
Nardini
Nonino
Picon Bierre
Pimm's
Ramazzotti
Ruccola (Maurizio Russo)
Sibilia
Stock Fernet Citrus
Zucca
Zwack Liqueur (alas, not Unicum)

Attached Images

  • amari.jpg

Edited by EvergreenDan, 24 October 2012 - 10:58 AM.

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#11 EvergreenDan

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 11:52 AM

Oops. And Saler's
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#12 Zachary

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 04:30 PM

Fine... shame me into a picture.

Amari.jpg.JPG

I'd love to try China Martini - did someone bring that back for you?


Thanks,

Zachary

#13 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 09:30 PM

Just picked up a bottle of del Capo. Man. This is nice. Reminds me a lot of Nonino altho' it's seemingly more bitter. Have to do a side by side comparison at some point.

Too, Campari and Aperol aren't listed on Wikipedia's amari page. Does this mean they're not amari? I mean, it's why I took them from my list. I don't speak Italian but amaro just means 'bitter', right? So surely Campari qualifies.

Edited by ChrisTaylor, 24 October 2012 - 09:54 PM.

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#14 Zachary

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 09:49 PM

KD,

I just noticed your bottle of Campari - mine are the current bottle (on the right) and two that are probably 2005 vintage (they're Carmine colored). Do you know how old your bottle is?

Thanks,

Zachary

#15 Yojimbo

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 11:42 AM

KD,

Just the fact that you even have ROOM for that many amari is enough to make me Cynar green with envy.
"The thirst for water is a primitive one. Thirst for wine means culture, and thirst for a cocktail is its highest expression."

Pepe Carvalho, The Buenos Aires Quintet by Manuel Vazquez Montalban

#16 EvergreenDan

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 02:55 PM

@zachary: China Martini did indeed come from a swap. I also forgot Black Balsams (which I highly recommend) and today's acquisition of Leopold Fernet (spearmint, not particularly bitter, need to find a use for it). And putting two bottles of Unicum out front is just plain mean. Bastard. ;)

@yojimbo: Wouldn't Cynar make you brown with envy? Fernet Menta would make you green with envy.
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#17 KD1191

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 08:02 AM

I just noticed your bottle of Campari - mine are the current bottle (on the right) and two that are probably 2005 vintage (they're Carmine colored). Do you know how old your bottle is?


I'm not really sure. The label says Aperitivo, but it also says it's Artificially Colored, so I wouldn't think it's as old as yours. However, this post from 2008 seems to think the presence of the Italy label implies that it is "older." It is a 1L bottle, not a 750...perhaps they continued to use the Italy label on the 1L bottle longer?

Regarding China Martini, I've seen it on the shelves at a couple out of the way stores downstate, but it didn't look appealing (at least not as appealing as the random bottles of Inner Circle Blue & Red). What's the flavor profile?

Edited by KD1191, 26 October 2012 - 08:03 AM.

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#18 Yojimbo

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 11:24 AM

@yojimbo: Wouldn't Cynar make you brown with envy? Fernet Menta would make you green with envy.


Yeah, I was thinking artichoke green rather than the color of the spirit, but emotion stays the same regardless of color. Time to negotiate with my spouse on more bar space!
"The thirst for water is a primitive one. Thirst for wine means culture, and thirst for a cocktail is its highest expression."

Pepe Carvalho, The Buenos Aires Quintet by Manuel Vazquez Montalban

#19 bostonapothecary

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 06:37 AM

i keep getting invited to taste new amaros that importers are bringing in hoping to be the next big thing. many of them seem really uninspired and full of missed opportunities. i suspect many amaros out there are shadows of their former selves because they are not maintaining their formulas and their sourcing has fallen apart after neglect. to illustrate how things fall apart, american vermouths, particularly Tribuno were regarded as the best in the world after world war II all the way into the 70's, but now we know the company is a distant shadow of itself.

i suspect all the great amaros out there came to being when a group of super consultant flavor chemists took a liking to them and helped companies scale to global demand and create protocols to maintain consistency. some of these consultants, who also did business making artificial flavors for the pharmaceuticals industry, were interested in what all the possible "special effects" were that could be used in an amaro. federico fenaroli outlined some of them in his giant handbook of flavor ingredients.

as someone who has always sought out the eclectic and esoteric in wine, (and been rewarded for doing so!) many of the newly imported and obscure amaros have been a big let down. i do look forward to acquiring a bottle of the Unicum Szilva. plum as opposed to orange aromatized amaros sounds really intriguing.
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#20 eje

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 10:09 AM

Regarding storage, generally, I only refrigerate wine based beverages.

I've never had a commercial neutral spirits based amaro 'spoil'.

I assume their flavor does change or evolve as they age, especially if they are infusion based, as most amaros are.
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#21 eje

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 10:17 AM

i keep getting invited to taste new amaros that importers are bringing in hoping to be the next big thing. many of them seem really uninspired and full of missed opportunities. i suspect many amaros out there are shadows of their former selves because they are not maintaining their formulas and their sourcing has fallen apart after neglect.
[...]


I'm not quite sure it is quite that bad, but it does seem like a lot of importers with dollar signs in their eyes are looking rather hard to find the next Fernet.

I recently tried a wine based beverage similar in flavor profile to Campari which Haus Alpenz is hoping to bring in, which was quite nice. Alpenz also had another very rooty Alpine Amaro which I quite enjoyed.

A friend brought some Braulio and Braulio reserve from Italy, a very nice herbal Alpine Amaro. I understand it may be imported soon by Domaine Select.

I don't think any of these will be the next Fernet, but they were definitely a cut above the typical commercial Amaros.
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#22 mkayahara

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 06:29 AM

Someone with an extensive collection and good palate needs to do up a flavour map for various amari, like you sometimes see with single malt Scotches, or like Pouring Ribbons does with their cocktails. It would really help with substitutions in cocktails when you don't know what the called-for amaro tastes like!
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#23 EvergreenDan

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 11:58 AM

Someone with an extensive collection and good palate needs to do up a flavour map for various amari, like you sometimes see with single malt Scotches, or like Pouring Ribbons does with their cocktails. It would really help with substitutions in cocktails when you don't know what the called-for amaro tastes like!


I have done this here: Kindred Cocktails Amari list.

I would be happy to update / expand / refine the list based on group feedback, including some sort of graphical representation that might help with substitution. One could map them on two axes, such as bitterness versus brightness. There are also some newer amari that need adding.

Disclaimers: haven't thought this through, just musing, from memory, some may be wrong, just a start, don't hurt me:
  • Bright amari
    • Campari-style
      • Campari
      • Luxardo Bitter
      • Gran Classico
    • Bitter orange style
      • Aperol
      • (Haven't had it, but might Montenegro fit here?)
  • Dark/earthy
    • Pie-spiced
      • Averna
      • Nonino
      • Ramazzotti
    • Cynar
    • Zucca
    • Dark orange
      • CioCiaro
      • Amer Picon
  • Mint / Menthol
    • Fernet style
      • Fernet Branca
      • Fernet Menta
      • Luxardo Fernet
      • Highland Fernet
    • Nardini
  • ...

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#24 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 12:47 PM

Montenegro is sweet and reminds me of musk stick lollies. It's no sibling to Aperol, altho' I suspect they'd get along. I'd put del Capo in with the Averna and Nonino.

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#25 Zachary

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 08:55 PM

Alright, you asked for it. These are sort of grouped together.

Suze (French) - Honey, lime, gentian, transparent. Dusty bitter midpalate, then lime and simple syrup.
Le Grand Rubren Genepy - Cleaner, more gentian focused (ingredients are water, sugar, alcohol, gentian). Minty/white musk, lightly bitter, but transparent gentian.
Maraska Pelincovac - Vanilla/dill (like American oak). Heavy texture, quite bitter up front, earthy, then vanilla, some sweetness and chemical/quinine on the finish.

Gran Classico - Campari-like, but more honey/floral, then citrus and cherry. Midweight, honey sweetness, then flowers and subtle bitterness.
Campari (pre-2006) - Cherry-rhubarb, firmly bitter, somewhat sweet. A bit moreso in the palate, but rhubarb and quinine.

Torani Amer - Marmalade and alcohol heat, and only slightly bitter, but 78 proof
Amer Picon (French) - Marmalade, gentian/earthy, cola. Very sweet and heavy, with a gentian core, then citrus and rich cola notes.
Amaro Cora - Honey, almond, citrus. Mildly bitter, somewhat glassy sweetness, then more honey on the finish. Soft.

Cynar - Honey, tobacco, coumarin. Some subtle earthy/sulfury/vegetal bitterness in the midpalate, but rounded off with honey
Ramazzotti - Root beer, cola, clovey warmth, baking spices, licorice. Fairly sweet palate, but rich and powerful, but not very bitter
del Capo - Honey and a clean, slightly resinous aroma (like rosemary), which is accentuated on the palate. White musky, green astringence/herbs, honey.
Lazarroni - Soft, Ramazzotti like texture and sweetness, but more leather, chocolatey, cola, honey. Slightly menthol on the palate, but easy.

Fernet Branca - chocolate minty, spicy, resinous, then licorice and rubber/ menthol. Firm and bitter midpalate, lots of menthol.
Branca Menta - Spearmint jellies, softer, warm and round. Soft pepper, then cola and candied mintl
Luxardo Amaro Abano - Honey-cola, hugely black peppery, nutmeg (?) Spicy and dry, with lots of pepper.

Amaro Sibilla - woodsy, honey, musky. Powerfully bitter, not quite ameliorated by honey. Somewhat sweet, but crazy bitter.
Zwack Unicum - Malty, carob/coffee, bone meal. Chocolate and coffee offset by chemical quinine bitterness. Powerful coffee.

Braulio - cut grass, honey, resinous, rounded, but then menthol, rubber/eucalyptus, cut grass. Moderately bitter, but very complex.

Thanks,

Zachary

#26 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 09:15 PM

Montenegro is sweet and reminds me of musk stick lollies. It's no sibling to Aperol, altho' I suspect they'd get along.

Musk stick lollies- must be an Australian specialty, never heard of it!

I can't detect orange in Montenegro. Muscat, lemon, maybe some fennel, bitter finish.

#27 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 09:21 PM

  • Bright amari
    • Campari-style
      [list]
    • Campari
    • Luxardo Bitter
    • Gran Classico
  • Bitter orange style
    • Aperol
    • (Haven't had it, but might Montenegro fit here?)


Montenegro - no. See above.

Regarding Aperol, I can't detect bitter orange in there. Orange but more like an orange candy. Very sweet. Campari on the other hand tastes like bitter orange and grapefruit to me.

#28 EvergreenDan

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 05:30 AM

Some good progress on characterizing individual amari, but what should the categories be? If we adopt the goal of using this taxonomy for finding substitutes (i.e. recipes calls for X; which of my amari would work?), what should the categories be? The goal is not to make the drink taste identical to the recipe, but to make it taste good. The substitute should fulfill the same role as the original, but not necessarily the same flavor.

For example, I find that I can frequently substitute Cynar for Campari, even though they don't taste similar, whereas I could not substitute Ramazzotti for Campari. And bitterness is usually not a major consideration for substitution, except for the massively bitter amari. For example, Aperol is much less bitter than Campari, but can generally be substituted.

The exception to this, at least for me, is mint/spearmint/mentol. These flavors are so dominant that they cut right through the cocktail and instantly define it. I'm not sure that they can be substituted except for themselves, but that's just one person's thought.

So how can we improve a taxonomy like:
- Bright, citrus (Campari, Aperol, maybe Cynar, maybe Becherovka (despite the cinnamon))
- Dark, earthy, spicy (Ramazzotti, Averna, Nonino, Cora(?), Montenegro(?), delCapo, Abano)
- Mint/Menthol (Fernets of all sorts, Nardini)
- Massively bitter (Unicum, Sibilia, dell Erboista)
- Wine (Rucola, CardAmaro, maybe aromatized wines like Lillet, Bonal, etc?)

What wouldn't fit in this? Would this be a useful substitution aid? Are there meaningful sub-categories? Are additional / different categories needed or better?

And if this is an awesome taxonomy, what goes where?
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#29 Zachary

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 08:57 AM

Dan,

Let's simplify things a bit...

Citrus: Campari, Aperol, Torani Amer, Amer Picon, Cora, Gran Classico
Pie Spice: Ramazzotti, Averna, Abano, Montenegro (?), Nonino, Lazarroni
Gentian: Suze, Pelincovac, Unicum, Sibilla,
Mint/Menthol: Fernets, Branca Menta, Nardini
Vegetal: Cynar, Cardamaro, Rucola, dell'Erboriste (?), Braulio, del Capo,
Evil: Unicum ;)

Thanks,

Zachary

#30 haresfur

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 06:45 PM

Dan,

Let's simplify things a bit...

Citrus: Campari, Aperol, Torani Amer, Amer Picon, Cora, Gran Classico
Pie Spice: Ramazzotti, Averna, Abano, Montenegro (?), Nonino, Lazarroni
Gentian: Suze, Pelincovac, Unicum, Sibilla,
Mint/Menthol: Fernets, Branca Menta, Nardini
Vegetal: Cynar, Cardamaro, Rucola, dell'Erboriste (?), Braulio, del Capo,
Evil: Unicum ;)

Thanks,

Zachary

Wouldn't Lazarroni go under citrus? It tastes a lot like chinotto to me.
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