Craft Spirits - Amaro
Welcome back to this week’s blog! In case you haven’t noticed, things are starting to cool off here in Southern California. And that means we can all make a drastic change in the wines we’re enjoying on a regular basis. I’ve even personally noticed at the shop that the purchase of rosés, white wines, and tequila has slowed, and the purchase of bolder red wines and whiskies has picked up drastically. Ha. I just thought of a new blog topic – ‘How climate and weather influence the consumer palate.’ Stay tuned.
Autumn officially began on the 22nd of September, and that gets me super excited. I don’t know about you but fall is one of my favorite seasons because of all the flavors that start becoming more seasonally appropriate – baking spices, ciders, malty beer, stews, soups, chilis, ragu. In the summer I do a lot less cooking and spend a lot more time outside. In the fall and winter months it’s the opposite. I love trying new recipes, cozying up with a movie, and drinking more heavy-profiled spirits.
This week we’re going to be focusing in on amaro. For the unfamiliar among us, amaro is simply an Italian herbal liqueur which typically has a quite bitter flavor profile. They are fairly syrupy-sugary to balance out the bitterness and they range from 16% to 40% ABV. There are no rules for consuming amaros – it doesn’t have to be a certain time of year of course, and even I love to serve amaro in the summertime in a spritz or on the rocks. I just think that it’s fitting to talk about amaros given the time of year and the similar sort of complexity of flavor that starts to come into play in most autumn and winter-themed cuisine.
Amaros, like any other craft spirit, exist in the marketplace both in a mass-quantity production size and an extremely boutique production size. And when I mean boutique, I mean that some of the amaros we’ve tasted with distributors have about 70 cases in existence for a single production period. We like to carry a mixture of the two camps at The Wine Connection.
Now remember that there are no real rules for amaro production. It’s not regulated by certain appellations that require producers to make their concoction in any particular manner. Some amaros have about four to five different botanicals and some have over a hundred. Some are meant for before-dinner and some are meant for after-dinner. Some you want to pour over ice and soda water, and some you want to pour over vanilla ice cream. Certain amaros are integral in certain classic cocktails, as is Campari in a Negroni or Nonino in a Paper Plane.
A few we’re really excited about at the moment are Fred Jerbis 16, Il Mallo Nocino, and Doug Margerum Amaro (yes, you can make amaro anywhere). Fred Jerbis 16 is a blend of 16 different botanicals from many trees on the producer’s property – lime, ash, cypress, birch, among others – bitter but very green and fresh. Il nocino is one of those vanilla ice cream amaros. Grain alcohol is used to steep green walnuts for 11 months, then it is pressed and aged in stainless steel with all kinds of baking spices. Doug Margerum is a concoction of forty individual ingredients – brandy, herbs, bark, roots, and dried orange peel that makes a lovely medium-weight yet classic amaro. We’d love to show you some of our favorites, and look forward to seeing you soon!