From its origins in the mid-1800s, the Manhattan’s combination of American whiskey, Italian Vermouth and Angostura bitters has expanded to countless variations on this timeless theme. These days, a number of new creations utilizing the increasing availability of Italian amaros in the U.S. market can be found in many bars, and though outcomes vary, it seems people are taking a liking to this trend of adding bitter complexity.
While traveling throughout Italy, it’s clear that amaro (or a bitter herbal liqueur often used for aiding in digestion) has long been a staple at cafes in even the furthest reaches of the country. Brands like Averna, Ramazzotti, Montenegro, Aperol, Campari and Fernet-Branca are the most ubiquitous; almost as easily found as Absolut, Bacardi and Jameson in this country. Fernet is one of the more bitter amari, with its still-secret recipe of over 40 herbs and spices, including peppermint, cardamom, gentian, myrrh and saffron (Fernet is one of the largest consumers of saffron in the world), resulting in a pungently medicinal but strangely addictive spirit.
Of course, only a Manhattan-style drink could tame this unyielding bitter flavor, and the Toronto is a prime introduction to those who are uncertain about Fernet. If nothing else, take comfort in the fact that this drink will cure an aching stomach after a big meal, as Fernet has been used for this purpose (among others) in Italy since it’s creation in the mid-1800s. Amaro can be your friend, but only if you take a leap of faith into the bitter abyss. Enjoy!
- 2 ounces Rittenhouse Rye
- 3/4 ounce Fernet-Branca
- 1/4 ounce simple syrup
- dash of Angostura bitters
- Combine ingredients in a chilled mixing glass and stir with ice for 15 seconds.
- Strain into chilled coupe and serve. Garnish with an orange twist.