As early autumn chills the air, our palate for sweet flavors that cut through the summer’s heat and humidity diminishes, leaving room for explorations into bitter. Though not relegated to any particular season, the herbs and roots of the darker amari are perfect for creating more complex, sturdier cocktails that tend to warm as well as refresh. Typically sipped on their own after a meal, amari are a digestive aid by design — particularly useful in minimizing the heaviness of a meal. In cocktails, adding an amaro can round out a drink in ways no other spirit can.
For bartender Sofia Present at August Laura, an Italian cocktail bar in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens, amari are a primary focus through various riffs on classics and original inventions. One drink that reads almost like a punch recipe is Present’s Fall Into Italy cocktail, which mixes Jamaican rum with cognac, lemon, chocolate bitters and the popular Sicilian amaro Averna. “The drink has a connection with the Italian world of drinking but takes it to the here and now,” notes Present. “With the flavors of the Averna and hints of chocolate notes, it moves the drinking experience to late summer, early fall.”
Indeed, it’s a good reminder that the Italian drinking experience is far from just Negronis and the bright bitterness of Campari. Similar to the Negroni, though, somehow using equal parts of all of the spirits, citrus and sweet ingredients creates an incredibly balanced drink, even with often powerful and funky flavors like Jamaican rum involved. With a spiced-caramel complexion, Averna carries a little sweetness to contrast with the herbs and citrus rinds that give it character, as well as any healthful properties. If bitters like Angostura, Peychaud’s or chocolate are the seasonings of the cocktail in this case, adding Amari might be akin to adding a dark, resinous marinade. If uncertain, try building a little into your old-fashioned and you’ll soon see why amari are an invaluable modifier. Enjoy.
Fall Into Italy Cocktail
Servings: 1 cocktail
3/4 ounce Averna
3/4 ounce Cognac
3/4 ounce Appleton
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes chocolate or mole bitters
- Combine ingredients into a cocktail shaker and whip-shake briefly to combine.
- Strain into a chilled footed highball or cordial glass. Add crushed ice on top.
- Garnish with one or several orange wedges and add a straw.
Prep time: 4 minutes