Browse Tag


Herbal teamaker

Varnelli Amaro “l’Erborista” (Marches) – While there are fernet-like mint and dark green herbal notes here, this liqueur’s heavier foot remains in a more traditionally amaro-esque camp. Which is, frankly, a ridiculous thing to say given the remarkable variation between amari, and in actuality this still manages a certain straddle, bringing caramelized everything (except caramel) into the equation, de-sugaring it, and then tossing in a blizzard of naturalia. If I’ve a quibble, it’s that the result then seemed gauzed, as if there’s an extra level the liquid isn’t being allowed to reach. But in its wake is elegance, and that’s OK too. (5/12)

Chinato up

Cappellano Barolo Chinato (Piedmont) – I admit to having, in the past, struggled with this construct’s occasionally overwhelming volatile acidity. It’s not absent here, but it’s under control, and the result is predictably gorgeous. Probably the best straight-ahead chinato I’ve ever had, in fact (there are variations on the theme that have been awfully compelling). Tannin, herbs both prosaic and exotic, a taste of Old Europe rent and torn by more than a touch of Southeast Asia. Fascinating, relentlessly complex, and utterly compelling. (10/11)


Ramazzotti Amaro (Lombardy) – Pleasantly bitter, but dominated by licorice-espresso caramel. This might be the best of the commonly-available brands (my opinion changes, often based on what’s in the glass in front of me), but there’s more complexity (and, you know, bitterness) in other brands. (9/10)

Nor Serbia

Montenegro Amaro (Emilia-Romagna) – Decidedly on the sweet, mellow side of amaro, showing caramel-based complexities more like a brandy than something more traditionally bitter. A simple pleasure. (9/10)

Bitter Mary

S. Maria al Monte Amaro (Liguria) – Complex, citrusy, and achieving equilibrium between its bitter, sweet, and aromatic elements. Very pleasant, with just enough bite. (8/10)


Bonal Gentiane-Quina (France) – I learned, a few years ago amidst a visit to Alsace, that I don’t like gentian eau-de-vie. It turns out that I don’t like an aperitif made from it either. Bitter, vegetal, ashen, and nasty. (7/10)


Luxardo Fernet Amaro (Italy) – Mint-dominated bitterness, very heavily tipped toward the mint. Sort of a blast furnace of an amaro, with neither subtlety nor generosity. It’s OK as long as mint is a favored flavor, but one has to be in the right mood. (7/10)

Old & bitter

Caffo Vecchio Amaro “del Capo” (Calabria) – Unfortunately, I remember little about this liqueur, except a sensation of depth and a better balance of bitter and sweet than is typical (usually, amari tip towards one side or the other). (6/09)


[label]Ramazzotti Amaro (Lombardy) – Probably my least favorite amaro thus far in my post-Sicilian explorations. Bitter, lightly sweet, but with nothing to add complexity or interest aside from the basic structure of the form. Eminently boring. (3/08)