Happy Thursday, beautiful people! Mr. Henry has been feeling under the weather this week, but after lots of cat naps and snuggles, he’s feeling better and is ready to share his deep knowledge of spirits with us again. Yes, friends, it’s time for another #WhatTheHeckWithHenry, where our extremely handsome and photogenic cat explains what the heck this ingredient is. (As told through purrs and meows, and transcribed by us.)
Henry adora bere amari!
Amari in a nutshell: Italian bittersweet herbal liqueurs (a liqueur is a spirit that is both flavored and sweetened) that were traditionally consumed before dinner (aperitivo) to “open” the stomach for the meal that’s about to come, or after dinner (digestivo) to help digest the large meal that was just enjoyed. Amari (singular: amaro) can be enjoyed on their own, because they’re essentially a cocktail in a bottle, chock-full of delicious herbs, roots, and spices in a bitter-but-balanced combination. Or, they play beautifully in a cocktail, combining with other ingredients for incredible depth of flavor and complexity. There are many styles of amari, from the aggressive and mentholated Fernet-Branca to the sweeter and less bitter Aperol (of Aperol Spritz fame) to many flavor profiles in between. (There are too many styles to get into here today, but to learn more about these beguiling beverages, check out Brad Thomas Parsons’ book Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas.)
Henry loves the Italian practice of aperitivo hour: in some metropolitan parts of Italy, the bars and restaurants host a cocktail hour before dinner. But it’s much grander than our American concept of happy hour — aperitivo hour can last around three hours and include lots of amazing free food (from table snacks to large buffets in high end spots!) to accompany the cocktails that are meant to open up the stomach for la cena. It’s a very social affair and is a time to unwind and catch up with friends.
So what are the Italians drinking at aperitivo hour? The event mostly revolves around light and dry amari cocktails - think spritzes and low proof bitter cocktails. (Hint: keep an eye on our Instagram account the next couple days for some easy amari cocktails to make at home!)
If you’ve taken one of our classes before, you know we advocate for everyone having a bottle of Campari in their home bar! Campari is a very famous amaro that is easy to obtain and is a great way to dip your toes into the wild, wonderful world of these bittersweet liqueurs. Use it in a Negroni, infuse it with fruit, shake it up with some fluffy OJ, or even make it tiki!
It’s so easy to fall down the rabbit hole of trying alllllll the amari! We love sipping and cocktailing with any amaro that we can get our hands on. Tell us, tell us — what’s your favorite amaro?