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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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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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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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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

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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.

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  • Bright amari
    • Campari-style
      • 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.

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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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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

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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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Maybe some tasting is in order. The grouping criterion goal is being able to substitute for each other, rather than actually what they have in them or even how similar they taste. To illustrate, it would (probably) be better to substitute Orchard Apricot for Cherry Heering than it would be to use Kirschwasser or Maraschino.

For example, if one didn't have CardAmaro, would you use dell Erboriste, Punt e Mes, or even regular sweet vermouth? I don't know without some tasting and thinking.

Cynar also sticks out. Yes, it's made out of a vegetable, but I think its role is more in the Citrus family. But again, maybe I need to sip it in contrast to say Cynar and del Capo and think.

My Amer Boudreau is more pie-spice in character than citrus, probably because of the Ramazzotti in it. I need to contrast it to Campari then think about Saller and Sibilia.

And Sibilia is, I think, too bitter to put it in other categories. Substituting it for, say, Saller would require a huge amount of fiddling, I think, to keep the bitterness in check. Unless we give up on that and say, "Hey, this works but the result will be massively more bitter."

Can we define a "center" of each category -- the amaro that is most prototypical? This might help us decide some of the border cases.

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I plan to add Nonino, and maybe Ramazzotti, to the Lucano, Fernet Branca, Cynar, Campari and Aperol that I already have and call it good enough for a while. I've been going a touch overboard with the cabinet stocking for my budget and need to slow it down a bit. So, with that limited selection, a substitution chart will be a very handy thing to have around.

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Hey! I just opened up my new replacement bottle of Averna and noticed that the label and cap were slightly different than my old bottle. This usually worries me. So I checked each label carefully and saw that the new label says 29% alcohol and the old one said 32%. I had about a quarter ounce of the old one in a jigger so I did a taste comparison. The new one is definitely sweeter and less complex.

Please say it ain't so! Averna is (was) my favorite amaro. Damn.

Dan

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Like a vampire, this thread rises from the dead.

Two (relatively) new favorites for sipping neat -- either after dinner or before:

Amaro Sibillia and Amaro dell'Erborista. Both are fairly dry, a bit higher than average in alcohol, and piercingly bitter. They are simply a fantastic way to end a meal. Highly recommended for the fearless.

Alas, both expensive and hard to find. I pulled them both out over the weekend at the end of a great meal. Using tiny glasses, its easy to pour yourself a bit. Then a bit more. And more.

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Heads up, New Yorkers: Amaro Braulio is now available at Astor. Been wanting to try this one for a long time; it's often described as piney, mentholated, complex, and bracingly bitter. If anyone's had it and has notes they're welcome.

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A new amaro is being introduced by Cocchi - Dopo Teatro Cocchi Vermouth Amaro, based on their barolo chinato. It looks very promising (see the reviews in Difford's and Imbibe).

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Very cool. I am always excited to try new amari.

 

Josh at Inu a Kena published a detailed amaro guide that is pretty useful at navigating the different styles.

101 covers Aperol, Averna, Campari, CioCiaro, Cynar, Fernet-Branca, Ramazzoti.

102 Braulio, Meletti, Montenegro, Nardini, Nonino, Zucca, Santa Maria al Monte, Vecchio Amaro del Capo

103 Bigallet Viriana China-China, Branca Menta, Fernet-Vallet, Gran Classico Bitter, Lucano, Abano, Sibilla, Suze (a personal favorite), Tosolini.

He is working on a fourth edition.

 

In San Diego there are a few restaurants that stock interested amari, so I've been trying a few that way. Cucina Enoteca has a respectable selection of amari, and Pizzeria Mozza offers amari flights.

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Very excited for both of these new offerings. Cocchi's barolo chinato is one of the more delicious wines around. 

 

Lately I've fallen hard for Varnelli's Amaro Dell'Erborista, which I believe is essentially the same product as Sibilla but higher proof and unfiltered. It has a delicious smoked honey flavor with a herbaceously bitter wallop of a finish. Highly recommended. 


Edited by Rafa (log)

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Very excited for both of these new offerings. Cocchi's barolo chinato is one of the more delicious wines around. 

 

Lately I've fallen hard for Varnelli's Amaro Dell'Erborista, which I believe is essentially the same product as Sibilla but higher proof and unfiltered. It has a delicious smoked honey flavor with a herbaceously bitter wallop of a finish. Highly recommended.

Sibilia is higher in proof. 34% vs 21%. Both are great, but I will restock Sibilia since they overlap.

I asked for a dell Erborista drink and got a delicious Negroni variation with Meletti. Hungry Mother, Cambridge MA

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Thanks for the correction. I'd like to try them side by side and see how different they are.

 

Was the drink Dell'Erborista, Meletti, and gin? 

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Thanks for the correction. I'd like to try them side by side and see how different they are.

 

Was the drink Dell'Erborista, Meletti, and gin? 

Very similar, although Sibilia is filtered.

 

Yes, that was the trio of ingredients. I presumed equal parts, but don't know that.

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Very similar, although Sibilia is filtered.

 

Yes, that was the trio of ingredients. I presumed equal parts, but don't know that.

 

Last night I decided to do a side by side of the two.

82IcmLF.jpg

 

Apologies for the poor image quality.

 

Sibilla is higher proof, but filtered and heavily caramel-colored. That's borne out in flavor and texture: it has the viscous, sticky caramel sensation common to many amari, along with the complex herbal blast of bitterness and the smoked honey sweetness shared by both Varnelli amari. It is the more bitter of the two by a pretty wide margin. 

 

Dell'Erborista, by contrast, is cloudy and dark honey-colored, and tastes almost like a bitter version of Benedictine or another herbal liqueur, with a smoked honey sweetness that reminds me a bit of some mezcals. 

 

Overall, Sibilla is closer to a generic amaro, with strong bitterness and caramel flavor, while Dell'Erborista really does taste like a showcase for the wild herbs and honey. Sibilla is more assertive in mixed drinks but Dell'Erborista adds more herbal complexity. Both are very good products, but my informal tasting panel (myself along with my barback and head bartender) unanimously preferred Dell'Erborista, both on its own and in the sour I mixed both products into. 


Edited by Rafa (log)

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Rafa -- Your comments surprised me because I found them when I compared them, so I tried again. The last time I took small sips of each, back-and-forth. I think this obscured the differences. This time I poured a small glass of dell 'Erborista, sipped it slowly, waited a bit, and then tried the Sibilia.

 

The difference in viscosity and caramel really stood out. I liked them both, but the dell 'Erborista was more off an outlier from the brown amari clustering. Cloudy, bright in texture and flavor, and still deeply bitter. The Sibilia is much richer and darker in color and flavor. I've changed my mind: both are worth having. They are really the only amari that I love neat. Most others are either too sweet or (in the case of Fernet) too menthol-like. I use most of my amari in cocktails.

 

I had expected to be accustomed to the bitter, but was really surprised by the intensity of the effect. The first sip is REALLY lingeringly bitter on the swallow. But with each sip, the bitterness becomes less noticeable until it seems nothing special at all. I have not found this effect with saltiness, sour, or sweet. Hot spice does seem to become a little more tolerable if you keep eating -- until you stop and die.

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I thought some of you might find this article interesting: http://inuakena.com/spirit-reviews/amaro-102-beyond-basic-bitters/ A few of the cocktails, at least, give me ideas for Montenegro and del Capo: both of which are gathering dust, even though I'm not actively delaying the day when I find myself looking into an empty bottle (Nonino is a little expensive here).

 

I made the La Merced, adjusting for what I had and how much I felt like drinking: an ounce of Pisco Control, an ounce of Montenegro and a half ounce each of Dolin sweet and Punt e Mes. It's fairly, well, sweet. I'm glad I made a smaller drink than the 1.5/1.5/1.5 of the recipe. I don't recall mixing with Montenegro before but I find myself wondering if it needs to be presented in much smaller quantities (as a modifier rather than one of three equally-portioned ingredients) or paired up with something beastlier than D&C's 'house vermouth' or my shitty pisco. Rye? Brandy? Maybe something a little rough and mean? A gutsier, juniper-heavy gin, even.

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