In all things gastronomy, Italians have been very good to us. Especially bitters. They practically invented the genre. And drinking. They’ve proven to be remarkably competent in that area too. Amaro is a love child of the bitter-boozy conception.
They are a category of digestifs that have recently surged in popularity in the States, varying in bitterness (and are in fact more bittersweet) and viscosity, but sharing a unifying herbal core. Amaros are produced by macerating herbs, flowers, roots, bark and/or citrus in alcohol. The alcohol can be either spirit or wine, and holding the proprietary blend as a closely guarded secret is as Italian as…Amaro!
Our most recent addition to the Amaro family is Cardamaro, a blend of cardoons (a cousin of artichoke) blessed thistle (a Middle Age prescription for bubonic plague) and some other secret herbs. Cardamaro is from Piedmont, so if you were to predict that it were grape-based, you’d be correct. It is round, but not too cloying. Its profile is some hybrid of an oxidative Madeira, with the density of Port, and the herbal nature of vermouth. Imagine all those things with the benefit of a 6-month sabbatical in an oak barrel. This spices things up a bit. We shared it with Michael Pollan when he came in a few months ago. He was delighted by the gesture, but more so by the product.