Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Bitter and the Sweet…

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

When I think about Italy, the first thing that comes to mind is the age of this country.  In respect of course to the USA of course, where everything is new, new, new.  We don’t have a history like they do in Italy, certainly not our liqueurs either.  Sure we have passionate craft spirits, but the recipes are not like what they have in Italy. 

The Italians have a unique product named Amaro and it contains both the bitter and the sweet.  This is the sum of all the emotional and metaphorical history in Italy that came prior, carefully encapsulated into each sip.  There is an emotional attachment of Amaro in everyone who has ever visited Italy.  Amaro is much more than a mere combination of herbs and roots.  Amaro represents good health. 

Amaro is traditionally taken in a multitude of ways, but the most popular is after a meal. 

The ingredients in Amaro were traditionally used in digestive preparations and they are enjoyed both before and after a filling meal.  These Amaro stimulate the secretion of enzymes in the gut to facilitate digestion, just like a good Negroni cocktail stimulates your appetite.  More importantly, back in the days before electricity, most foods were compromised in some way by all sorts of food borne illnesses, so drinking an Amaro could assist in this regard.  Folk medicine healing methods call for treatments using herbs and roots, steeped in alcohol for a period of time, and then combined together and aged in oak.  The end result heals the aching belly.  The fragile herbs and roots contained in Amaro needed preservation, thus alcohol become the chief ingredient in these health tonics or elixirs.  Amaro was born out of necessity!

Just like Vermouth and Absinthe contains wormwood- to rid the belly of intestinal worms from eating unhealthy food, Amaro contains healing herbs and roots along with citrus peels, long known for good health.   And Amaro makes for a lovely base in all kinds of craft cocktails.

I’m a huge fan of Italian bitter liqueurs.  In many ways I find them even more pleasurable to drink than Italian wine.  They are approachable on release whereas many Italian wines take decades to reveal themselves properly.  There is a veritable plethora of Amaro on the market in many different styles and flavors.

Averna is the classic example of citrus meeting roots and herbs in the kitchen, and then translating healing into your glass.  The recipe hasn’t changed since 1868, so as the adage goes, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.  Averna is just gorgeous in a glass with a tiny zest of blood orange or a splash of seltzer water and a lemon twist.  It takes to gin like nobody’s business and it really shines when you mix it with carrot juice.  Carrot juice?  Yes.  That and a couple drops of Anisette, like the equally brilliant Anisette di Calabria make for a long drink of your dreams.  I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t add a bit more bitter with the sweet of the Anisette and that is achieved by dribbling just a couple drops of the Bitter Truth Orange Bitters over the top. 

The Bitter and the Sweet. 

2 oz. Averna Amaro
1 tsp. Anisette di Calabria (brilliant stuff!)
3 oz. Freshly crushed carrot juice
1 oz. Seltzer water
2-3 drops Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
Lemon Zest (cut with a paring knife… NEVER a peeler)

Rub the inside of a Collins glass (the best you can) with the lemon zest (and then leave inside the glass)
Add a couple ice cubes
Add the Anisette, then the Averna
Add the Carrot Juice, and then add a splash of Seltzer
Drip the Bitter Truth Bitters over the top


Semplice Negroni

2 oz. Averna
1 oz. Barr Hill Gin
1 oz. Carpano Punt e Mes
2-3 drops Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters
Lemon zest

To a Rocks glass, rub the inside with the lemon zest
Add the ice 1-2 cubes only!
Add the Averna
Add the Barr Hill Gin
Top with the Punt e Mes
Dot the Grapefruit Bitters over the top


Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys. His first book, Apothecary Cocktails has been nominated for a Spirited Award at the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail! 

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