Friday, February 8, 2013

The Amaro Renaissance in San Francisco

Amaros––literally "bitters"––have been experiencing an American renaissance recently. Although the U.S. is still far behind Europe, there are more and more amaros available on American shelves and the average cocktail nerd is pretty well used to the bittersweet goodness that Europeans have been enjoying for centuries. In this series of posts, I'll point out a few amaros that you have probably seen around but haven't had the pleasure of trying. I'll also make my stance known right now: every amaro that I put up in this series is incredible, and I think you should try them all. If I didn't like an amaro, it won't appear on this blog. Most of them can be found at the following spots in San Francisco: AQ, Bar Agricole, Locanda, and Lolinda.

Today's amaros are more challenging than some others you see about town. If you don't live in a cocktail metropolis, you may have to do some digging to find them––it's well worth it.


Amaro Dell'Erborista, on the left, is among the bitterest amaros we'll cover in this series. Dell'Erborista means "the Herbalist." It comes from the distiller's grandfather's recipe. He was the herbalist in town. T As soon as it hits your tongue it fills your mouth with celery or bitter greens-like bitterness. Once you get past that (if you can), though, you taste deep, rich honeycomb. It's unfiltered and uncolored. If you don't have a palette for bitter yet, then I don't think you should invest in a bottle, not by a long shot, but definitely give it a taste. I've found it over at Lolinda, Locanda, and Bar Agricole. 

Amaro Sibilla is made by the Herbalist's granddaughters. It's only been available in the States for about two years. The Sibilla is substantially less bitter than Dell'Erborista, with a brighter honey flavor throughout. Sibilla is distilled only with honey, affecting the flavor and the viscosity. You can buy it at Cask in San Francisco or at their online store.


If you're lucky enough to be at a bar that has any of this, try an Amaro Cocktail. It's a delicious cocktail with a lower ABV––a good drink on nights you want to take it easy. It's relatively simple: Amaro, orgeat, lemon, and bitters. The amaro lends a nice complexity and richness to the drink.


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