Amaro Nonino (about $42).“A lighter style of amaro made in Friuli at the Nonino distillery. Its flavors are warm, with a gentle spiciness and smooth texture. The spice character lingers on the finish, proof that Nonino is one of the more elegant amari on the market. Contains a portion of ÙE Grape Distillate, a proprietary aquavit aged in small barriques of nevers, limousin and sherry woods, plus an infusion of herbs. It is best enjoyed as a digestivo or as an aperitivo with ice and orange peel.”
Amaro Averna (about $35). “A sophisticated and complex amaro that hails from Sicily. The addition of blood orange and lemon peels to the aromatic herbs used to make this amaro adds a bright and refreshing character. Averna is widely considered to be one of the most versatile Italian amari.”
Cynar (about $22). “The earthy flavors in this herbal amaro are enhanced by the flavors of the artichokes used in its production. Cynar also has a relatively low alcohol level (16.5 percent), making it a popular amaro for cocktails, as well as a style of amaro that’s enjoyable as an aperitivo.”
Fernet-Branca (about $30). “A pungent and black drink made in Milan and considered by many to be the benchmark Italian amaro. Flavors of anise and saffron add complexity to this forceful drink.”
Santa Maria al Monte ($38). “This shows an engaging herbal complexity that recalls fresh basil and spearmint. Its strength and power are similar to Fernet-Branca, while the vibrant finish feels spicy and rich.” From the Valle d’Aosta, Santa Maria al Monte is a digestivo that uses bitter orange peel and ginseng among other flavoring agents. Menthol presence is heavy.
Ramazzotti ($24). “One of the more popular Italian amaro brands, Ramazzotti is made in Milan. The balance between bitter and sweet in this aromatic amaro feels almost seamless, while the snappy flavor of fresh ginger lingers on the finish.”
Campari (about $26). Originally produced in 1860 by Gaspare Campari in Milan. As stated above, Campari is made from cascarilla bark and the insect Dactylopius coccus which gives the liquor it’s distinctive red color (note: as of 2006 insects are no longer used to give Campari it’s red color; a red dye is now used). I like Campari via the Negroni, Americano, or with grapefruit juice and a splash of red vermouth)
Branca Menta (about $27.50). As one online reviewer put it, “Deep chestnut, mahogany. High toned, mineral, alpine herbed, licorice aromatics. Rich texture. Wild, intensely concentrated palate – like liquid Ricola. Very fresh, minty and clean with a powerful infusion of spice. For all its presence, it retains nice balance. Use this in winter – should cure anything.”