Spirits & Liqueurs Liqueur

11 Great American Amari to Try Now

Made with pineapple, artichoke and gentian, these USA-made amari are anything but boring.

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Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

Minnesota fernet? Pineapple amaro? The collective thirst for the Italian liqueur amaro is no bitter pill. So fully have drinkers embraced the low-alcohol, bark-and-botanical-based digestif that it was only a matter of time before American-made versions blossomed.

Around 2010, companies like Root in Pennsylvania and Leopold Bros. in Colorado launched some of the first serious forays into the domain of digestifs. Today, producers from Buffalo to Los Angeles are on the forefront of a second wave of homegrown amari. These are 11 standout bottles to try for yourself.

  • Don Ciccio & Figli C3 Carciofo Amaro ($33)

    C3 Carciofo Amaro

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    In a nod to Cynar, this amaro from Don Ciccio & Figli, based in Washington, D.C., veers traditional. It’s not surprising, as owner and distiller Francisco Amodeo is the fifth generation to try his hand at the family recipes started by his great grandfather on the Amalfi Coast in the late 19th century. “The C3 Carciofo is based on a very old recipe dating back to 1911,” says Amodeo. The amaro now consists of three different varieties of California artichokes employed to get just the right savory, vegetal note, along with Texas-sourced grapefruit and 18 other botanicals. It leaves you with a savory, pleasing across-the-palate bitterness that works on its own or makes a more brooding swap for Campari in a Boulevardier.

  • Greenbar Grand Hops Amaro ($30)

    greenbar grand hops amaro

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    Journalists turned distillery owners Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Matthews are fond of turning ideas upside down and inside out to find new directions from which to approach a project. Inspired by the tradition of West Coast IPAs, the bitter here comes not from typical amari agents but from bravo, citra and simcoe hops. This clever move provides the drink’s dominant aromatics and flavors along with some counterbalance from sugar cane. Less of a sip-alone style, this New World amaro is ripe for mixing and can even impress the beer-or-bust buddies in your crowd.

  • Greenbar Grand Poppy Amaro ($24)

    greenbar grand poppy amaro

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    It’s fun to sniff this New World amaro and try to pick out the botanicals, of which there are many: organic California poppy and bay leaf; an abundance of citrus, the likes of orange, lemon and grapefruit; bearberry, pink peppercorn, dandelion, blessed thistle, burdock, rue, artichoke, gentian, geranium and cherry bark. This amaro feels more vermouth-like in style and is a versatile cocktail modifier or nice addition to a glass of brut prosecco.

  • Gulch Distillers Burrone Fernet ($45)

    gulch distillers burrone fernet

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    Started by Tyrrell Hibbard and Steffen Rasile in Helena, Montana, in 2015, this impressive fernet is a beautifully balanced blend of saffron, chamomile, mint, myrrh, rhubarb and other local botanicals macerated in a Montana-sourced grain base. Not only are the intense, well-mingled flavors harmonious, but the finish leaves you with a just-right restrained bitterness in this 71-proof amaro. “Amaro is the main reason I got into the distilling business,” says Rasile. “I was always amazed by the wide variety of flavors and complexity of a single category of liquor.”

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  • Heirloom Pineapple Amaro ($38)

    heirloom pineapple amaro

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    A spin-off dreamed up by the bartender-owners of Milwaukee-based Bittercube Bitters, Heirloom aims for esoteric with the company’s line of liqueurs, which launched in summer 2018. From its deep golden color to its rich, plush, slippery texture and candied-pineapple nose, Heirloom’s tropical-minded entry is a think-outside-the-box bottling that begs for Tiki experimentation or even a couple of ice cubes, cucumber slices and a splash of club soda on a hot summer day.

  • Lockhouse Amaro ($35)

    lockhouse amaro

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    It may have been the cold climes of Lockhouse’s home city of Buffalo that inspired the ultimate style of this cozy digestif. Cinchona, quasia root and blessed thistle amplify the bitter side of things, and the rest of the well-rounded flavors are dominated by a melding of sassafras, orange and lemon peel, cardamom and cinnamon, all macerated in a New York corn base spirit. All together, they’ll make you seek out the closest comfy chair parked in front of a fireplace. While turbinado sugar is the main source of sweetener, “we wanted to give some perceived and natural sweetness from the botanicals to this spirit as well, so we toyed around with using locally-sourced raw diced beet and elderberries,” says co-owner Cory Muscato. “I find amari to be so fascinating and storied because of the wide range of styles and production methods used to make them.”

  • Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro ($32)

    lo-fi gentian amaro

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    It makes sense that the wine region that put the U.S. on the map might be home to amaro production, and with one of the most successful still-family-owned companies behind it to boot. Lo-Fi is a Napa-based collaboration between E. & J. Gallo and Steven Grasse (of Root, Hendrick’s and Sailor Jerry fame). Their gentian amaro begins with a fortified white wine base and, in addition to the namesake botanical, also contains anise, cinchona bark, hibiscus, grapefruit, ginger, bois de rose and orange oil bitters. It has a distinctively fruity, floral character and feels juicy and fresh in your mouth, with a lingering, gentle citrus-zest finish. It’s a capable sub for Aperol in a Spritz.

  • Long Road Distillers Amaro Pazzo ($35)

    long road distillers amaro pazzo

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    This amaro is a collaboration between two Grand Rapids, Michigan, producers: Long Road Distillers and Madcap Coffee Company. The bean base they settled on for the liqueur is Reko from the Kochere region of Ethiopia and offers a citrus oil and candied ginger richness to the combination of botanicals used in the amaro, notably myrrh, turkey rhubarb, orange and wormwood. While this pair isn’t the first to make an amaro that looks to coffee for extra complexity, they do appear to be the first to think carefully about what that coffee is and should be (in this case, a single origin) and to really dial in how it plays with the botanicals.

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  • Tattersall Amaro ($33)

    tattersall amaro

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    According to co-founder Jon Kreidler, this amaro has a whopping 25 botanicals macerated in the organic corn spirit base. As is traditional with amari, it sits in oak for a spell so the flavors can mingle. There’s a cool savory quality to this amaro that presents itself with aromatics of dried porcini mushrooms, sage, fennel and cardamom. It’s bright and zippy on your palate and leaves a gentle, lingering bitter mintiness on your tongue that makes you want to pick it up again and again.

  • Tattersall Fernet ($35)

    tattersall fernet

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    Tattersall’s fernet rocks out of the gate with a gorgeous alpine chocolate-mint nose, along with notes of sassafras, walk-through-the-forest pine and licorice. It clocks in at a slightly higher ABV than the amaro (35% versus 30%), and that minty quality accentuates the extra heat, along with a growing punch of bark-y bitterness. It all makes this American fernet oh-so satisfying after a wintry, gut-busting, high-calorie meal.

  • Ventura Spirits Amaro Angeleno ($45)

    ventura spirits amaro angeleno

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    If an amaro can stand tall on the pedestal of pretty, this one from L.A.’s Ventura Spirits has perfect posture. Ventura is all about sourcing from the abundance of California’s great produce, starting with the wine base, which comes from Paso Robles and is fortified with local brandy before the maceration begins. Those local botanicals are a fresh, fragrant garden of delight: orange and lemon peel, lemon verbena, rose, chamomile, jasmine, marjoram (those last three plus the citrus really shine in the aromatics) and bits of sass added from star anise and sassafras. With the grounding base notes from rue, gentian and quassia bark, which add a chocolaty note at the finish, it drinks more like an aromatized wine than an amaro. Sipping this is truly the best way to experience it, but this amaro does play well with bourbon.