It’s time again to take a closer look at one of the many amaros (amari?) we have in our liquor cabinet. This week we pulled out Amaro dell’ Erborista by Varnelli. The dell’Erborista is especially interesting. It has a lot of forest-y, earthy notes as well as being especially bitter. Shaun finds it almost too bitter, Christa loves the stuff. Can we mix with it? Let’s find out.
First up how does it taste all on its own?
- Nose: Honey and honeysuckle. Leaf duff. Sarsaparilla. Slightly astringent, resinous pine tar or pine sap. Slight menthol or camphor.
- Palate: Intro is honey and floral notes. Mid-palate is earthy, forest loam, bit of pine. Finish is slightly camphor-y and very bitter with a touch of honey. Bitter throughout except for the very beginning but bitterness peaks at the mid-palate for an intense bitter note.
As you can see, honey-sweet, bitter, and earthy flavors predominate. A very interesting combination, but can we mix with it? We pored through our many cocktail books to see if we could find something suitable. We fell upon the Widow’s Kiss, and thought the sweet, herbal flavors in that drink could handle a variation with the dell’Erborista. We tried an initial variation with brandy, but the dell’Erborista was a little overpowering. However we really like the richness that the brandy brought to the drink, so we tried Spanish brandy hoping that it would have a little more character but still bring richness. It did and made for a very nice drink. However on a whim we decided to try rye as well. That was a winner, bringing a nice rich mouthfeel as well as welcome spice while still being really clean and letting the different flavors pop. We both liked that as soon as we tasted it, and decided to go with that.
- 1 oz rye
- 1/3 oz yellow chartreuse
- 1/3 oz Benedictine
- 1/4 oz amaro dell’Erborista
- 1 light dash of Angostura
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.
- Nose: Cedar, sandalwood, sarsaparilla, hints of camphor and pine resin. Little bit of honey. Herbal funk at the end.
- Palate: Honey, honeysuckle, cinnamon, and hazelnut on the intro. Honey continues into the mid-palate with camphor, cedar, pine resin and sandalwood. Finish is quite interesting, bitter and slightly astringent with rye spice, then a last pop of sweet right at the very end.
For cocktail #2 we decided to experiment with clear spirits. We started with aquavit because we thought the caraway would pair nicely. It was pretty good, and worth a second look at some point.We also tried fizzy wine, which was not nice. Something about the wine brought out all sorts of unusual and unappealing flavors :-P. Next up we tried gin, going for a martini a-like. That worked great, and adding a little bit of Lillet rounded out the palate nicely. This is for folks who like a wet martini, it definitely has a touch of sweetness and a fuller mouth feel.
- 2 oz gin (something full-bodied and less dry. We used the Scratch G&T style.)
- 1/4 oz Lillet Blanc
- 1/4 oz Amaro dell’Erborista
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
- Nose: Lemon, chamomile, lavender, mild juniper. Honey and dried leaves.
- Palate: Lemon and honey right on the front. Mid-palate is a lot of herbal flavors, juniper, coriander, chamomile, lemon balm. Finish is very unexpected, moderately bitter with dried leaves, nigella (charcoal and onion) and sweetness like graham cracker.
This is a fantastic amaro to have on its own as a digestif if you like them bitter, and used with moderation in cocktails it adds bitterness and delicious woodsy flavor without overwhelming. We also use it in a white Negroni variation that some of you may enjoy. Definitely give it a whirl if you have the good fortune to come across a bottle!