The best, most bittersweet bottles of amaro for summer

We’ve cherry-picked the maraschino-macerated, flowery-flavoured finest amari to serve over ice, with tonic or to sip straight this summer…

The word may mean ‘bitter’ in Italian, but amari always go down smooth. These slightly syrupy liqueurs are heady, herbal and commonly consumed as after-dinner digestifs; people sip the stuff all over continental Europe — where varieties include Germany’s ‘Kräuterliköre’ or the sharper ‘Pelinkovci’ of the Balkans. 

But the best are brewed in Italy. Whether it’s a bobbly bottle of Stambecco — distilled by the Vergano family in Moncalieri — or the ruby red, brilliantly botanical Savoia Americano from Piedmont, the spirited nation has been commercially infusing alcohol with assorted herbs, roots and citrus peels for over 200 years. 

"These syrupy liqueurs are heady, herbal and consumed as after-dinner digestifs..."

And recently, these Torinese techniques have poured beyond Italy’s borders. Today, you’ll find amari in Britain — with London’s Asterley Bros bottling a flavourful spin on the style, and Edinburgh’s ‘Sweetdram’ whisky amaro brimming with notes of lovage and lingonberries. Even Australia has taken inspiration from Italy, with Mr Black cooking up a coffee amaro from the sun-soaked suburbs of Sydney. 

Here, we’ve cherry-picked the maraschino-macerated, flowery-flavoured best to serve over ice, with tonic or to sip straight this summer. So buy a bottle, gather your friends for a long, languid evening — and raise a glass to the bitter end…

Sweetdram Whisky Amaro

Where’s it from? An industrial warehouse in Edinburgh. Established in 2014 by two friends studying for Master’s degrees, Sweetdram created this amaro as part of a collaboration with Brooklyn’s Kings County Distillery a year later.

What does it taste like? Using a base that resembles moonshine, Sweetdram’s whisky amaro adds botanicals including lovage, lemon and lingonberries to infuse it with rich flavour. Also rhubarb root and kola nut. 

How to serve it? A whisky amaro highball. Simply pour a 35ml shot of Sweetdram’s bottling into a tall glass, add a generous handful of ice, top up with soda water and garnish with a slice of zesty orange. 

The best, most bittersweet bottles of amaro for summer

Sweetdram Whisky Amaro

£40.00

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Mr Black Coffee Amaro

Where’s it from? Australia. Specifically, just north of Sydney, where the Mr Black coffee roastery and distillery was founded in 2013 by awarded-distiller Philip Moore and designer-turned-coffee-snob Tom Baker.

What does it taste like? Inspired by both Italy’s after-dinner drink tradition and Australia’s coffee culture, this square-bottled sipper has evocative notes of grapefruit, gentian, cacao — and the finest coffee from down under. 

How to serve it? The brand suggests a ‘Coffee Negroni’, which you can whip up at home using 30ml Mr Black Coffee Amaro, 30ml Gin and 30ml Sweet Vermouth over ice in a tumbler. Garnish, once again, with an orange slice. 

The best, most bittersweet bottles of amaro for summer

Mr Black Coffee Amaro

£33.99

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Savoia Americano Rosso

Where’s it from? Turin, where spirited entrepreneur Giuseppe Gallo made the decision to ‘reinvent’ the whole easy-drinking category. Allegedly inspired by Italy itself, the handsome brand is named after Italy’s royal family. 

What does it taste like? Bitter, as you would expect. But there’s a depth of flavour here that the colour may distract from. Close your eyes, and the twenty botanicals (including cardamom, ginger and artemisia) will reveal themselves. 

How to serve it? We’d mix a ‘Garibaldi’ — a classic Italian cocktail that hasn’t quite yet made it to British shores. Blend two parts Savoia with two parts orange juice. Add ice, and garnish with the obligatory orange wedge. 

The best, most bittersweet bottles of amaro for summer

Savoia Americano Rosso

£19.95

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Asterley Bros. ‘Dispense’ Modern British Amaro

Where’s it from? South London, where the Asterley Bros team has been creating its fine spirits by hand — using traditional methods in a workshop in Forest Hill — since the brand first started-up in 2014.

What does it taste like? This one’s a little different. Eccentric but excellent, this ‘modern’ amaro is based on 17th Century recipes, and swirls idiosyncratic botanicals including rosemary, hops and wormwood into its mix. 

How to serve it? Given its ultra-bitter taste (other botanicals include kaffir lime, lemongrass, myrrh and even basil), Asterley Bros. suggest adding a sapid splash of their ‘Dispense’ creation into a classic gin and tonic.

The best, most bittersweet bottles of amaro for summer

Asterley Bros. ‘Dispense’ Modern British Amaro

£30.95

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Stambecco Maraschino Cherry Amaro

Where’s it from? Italy — as the bottle so bubbly and bombastically claims. Based in the snowy southern Alps, the brand (created by the team behind Hotel Starlino) takes its name from the Italian for the wild Alpine ibex. 

What does it taste like? It’s less playful than the bottle may suggest — but, then again, an amaro should take things seriously. Think bitter cherries and liquorice root, with a hint of Christmas spice and a touch of sweet almond.

How to serve it? Our favourite of the brand’s suggested serves is the ‘Stambecco Full Monte’. Blend two parts bourbon with one part Stambecco, add in four dashes of chocolate bitters and garnish with a lemon twist. 

The best, most bittersweet bottles of amaro for summer

Stambecco Maraschino Cherry Amaro

£24.95

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This article was taken from the Summer 2022 issue of Gentleman’s Journal. Take a look inside the latest magazine here…

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