On a recent bourbon hunting adventure, I happened to come across something that caught my eye. It had an old-fashioned red label featuring two old-timey characters pouring libations placed on some sort of black spirit in a stout bottle. The neck of the bottle was wrapped with brown paper and secured with twine in a simple knot. “THIS…”, I thought to myself, “THIS is how you package a bottle”. To my surprise, not only was it spirit I’ve never used before, it was placed under the “Local Spirits” section of the store and made and distilled by the High Wire Distilling Company, right here in Charleston.
Even though this bottle of High Wire’s ‘Southern” Amaro Liqueur piqued my interest, I still had no idea what “Amaro” was, what it tasted like or how to use it in a cocktail. So I did what any other logical Charleston bourbon/food/cocktail/etc blogger would do (there’s a bunch of those, right?) … I Googled it… yep, right there in the middle of the liquor store. Holding the bottle in one hand and my phone in the other hand, I begin to read a couple of articles regarding the spirit at hand (literally). After 15 minutes or so of loitering and awkwardly holding a bottle in my hand (definitely warranted some odd stares by the staff), I finally gather the following:
Amaro is an Italian herbal liqueur that is commonly drunk as an after-dinner digestif. It usually has a bitter-sweet flavor, sometimes syrupy, and has an alcohol content between 16% and 40%
Great… So far, so good, sounds like a mix of Campari and sweet vermouth, which I love… but I have both of those at home. I do some further research and reach the High Wire Distilling Co. site (in hindsight, I probably should’ve visited this site first), here’s their description:
High Wire Distilling Co. – Southern Amaro Liqueur
A Southern expression of an Italian classic, our signature amaro is handcrafted from regionally grown and foraged ingredients such as Charleston black tea, yaupon holly, Dancy tangerine, and mint. Sip by itself as a digestif, or use in a riff on a classic cocktail!
Tasting Notes: Fresh citrus, licorice, light mint, medium body, slightly bitter, vanilla on finish
Cocktails: Black Manhattan, Boulevardier, Paper Plane, Negroni
Finally, after a good 20 minutes, I was sold. I purchase my bottle and make my way home. Now I need to figure out what a “Black Manhattan” entailed. Follow me on my Amaro journey…
Yield: 1 cocktail
2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey (I used Noah’s Mill bourbon)
2 Dashes of Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
1/2 oz Sweet vermouth (optional)
1/2 oz High Wire Amaro (increase to 1oz if not using sweet vermouth)
1 Navel orange peel
1 Luxardo Maraschino Cherries
Ice cubes for mixing
Mixing Glass (I use a Yarai Mixing Glass)
Peeler or channel knife
Chilled martini or coupe glass (I used a rocks glass)
Pick or cocktail straw
- Place the ice in the mixing glass and add the chocolate bitters, bourbon (or rye), sweet vermouth (optional) and Amaro.
- Take your barspoon and stir your cocktail. The general rule of thumb is 20 stirs clockwise and 20 stirs counter-clockwise.
- After stirring, place an ice cube into your rocks glass and strain the mixture into the glass, over the ice.
- Using the peeler (I’m using a channel knife), take the peel from your navel orange. Do this over the glass so that the oils are released on the surface of the cocktail and on the glass.
- Take your pick and fish out a couple Luxardo Marischino cherries. A little drop or two of the Luxardo syrup will only enhance your cocktail.
- You’re done! Enjoy!