Updated: Nov 9
Amaro, Italian for “bitter” or Amari when plural, is a bitter-sweet traditionally Italian herbal liqueur. Like most spirits, amaro is now made all over the world, not just Italy. Amaro’s alcohol content ranges from 16% up to 40% ABV. Its bitter-sweet quality can also range from brand to brand, created by proprietary blends of roots, herbs, barks, citrus peels, flowers and other ingredients. These ingredients are typically macerated with a neutral grain spirit or wine after filtration. Sugar is typically added, then the mixture is set to age. This process is unique to each amaro and will create a final product that is equally unique and robust on the flavor scale, ranging from descriptions like “flat coke” to “medicinal.” Amaro’s wide range of flavors allows it to be a forever growing category as well as a fun ingredient to play with in drinks.
There are far too many amari to cover in one conversation, so today let’s just talk about one of the original companies who are still creating some of the most utilized worldwide. That company is the Campari Group. Within their expansive portfolio, the group includes multiple phenomenal amari including Campari, Aperol, Averna, Cynar and Braulio Bormio. Here are a few details about each of these amari as well as a couple of cocktails to try.
Campari: Campari has kept their original recipe a tight secret since 1860, only known to a select few that are in charge of the production process. The only known difference from the original recipe is the substituting man-made carmine in 2006 for a dye made from the cochineal, a tiny insect that created its trademark virant hue. Campari’s ABV varies depending on the country in which it is sold, although many countries receive it at 25% ABV. A few notably different ABVs are 21% ABV in Iceland & Sweden, 24% ABV in US and 28.5% ABV in Argentina. The Negroni cocktail is the most associated cocktail with Campari.
Aperol: Created in 1919 by Luigi and Silvio Barbieri. Although the recipe is mostly a secret, a few known ingredients are cinchona, gentian and rhubarb. With a low 11% ABV, your aperitivo hour can last as long as you like. As the base of one of Italy’s most popular drinks, the Aperol spritz is the most associated cocktail with Aperol.
Averna: Since 1868, Averna has celebrated Sicily. It was created by Benedictine monks of Abbazia Di Santo Spirito. Another secret amaro recipe, the recipe has remained unchanged since its existence. Averna has an ABV of 29% and is utilized in a new twist on a traditional cocktail. The Black Manhattan is a cocktail that calls for Averna.
Cynar: Created in 1952 in Padua Italy, Cynar, pronounced chee-nar, is a blend of 13 herbs and plants, one of those plants being artichoke. Its name is derived from the botanical name for artichoke, cynar scolymus. The recipe obviously utilizes artichoke, but if you’ve seen a theme building in this article…the recipe has been kept very secret since its invention. The original Cynar (red label) has an ABV of 16.5%, however they do produce another Cynar (black label) which is 70% ABV. An in-house favorite cocktail here at Kuleana Rum Works utilizing Cynar is the Diviso cocktail (see below for recipe).
Braulio Bormio: Braulio dates back to 1826 created by a pharmacist and botanist named Francesco Peroni. Some that are known ingredients is musk yarrow, wormwood, gentian and juniper. It’s aged in Salvonian oak casks for two years. Braulio has an ABV of 21% and makes a great sour. Give a classic whiskey sour recipe a try with the addition of Braulio for a rich, herbal cocktail with fantastic texture, and substitute in Nanea for a Hawaiian version of this classic.
Try these cocktails utilizing amaro, such as this tiki favorite:
1.5 oz Nanea rum or Hōkūlei rum
.75 oz Campari
.5 oz fresh lime juice
.5 oz simple syrup
4 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
Shake with cubed ice and serve
Or try this Kuleana original:
1 oz Kuleana Huihui
1 oz Cynar
.5 oz Pineapple juice
.5 oz Lime juice
.25 oz simple syrup
Shake and strain into a coupe