From Medieval Medicinal Remedy To Delectable Digestivo: Italian Amaro

Posted on May 15, 2020

 

 

Italian amari (plural for ‘amaro’) are a range of wonderfully complex, bittersweet herbal liqueurs that have gone on to define the iconic Italian digestivo. Here at the Cotswolds Distillery, we’ve decided to create a family of our very own amaro liqueurs using our single malt whiskies, which we think serve as a tasty after-dinner treat!

Dan has long been an admirer of amaro (Italian for ‘bitter’), the name used throughout the Italian peninsula to describe a type of herbaceous liqueur traditionally enjoyed after dinner. The flavour of amaro, as the name suggests, is typically bittersweet, with a thick, silky mouthfeel and an alcohol content anywhere between 16% and 40% ABV. The aromatic liqueur is made by infusing spirits or wine with a blend of herbs, spices, flowers, bark and citrus, to which a touch of caramel or sugar syrup is added before the liquid is left to age in casks or bottles. There are many diverse styles of amaro which range in flavour and bitterness, with each region, and many families, producing their own version of the liqueur - from amari delle Alpi flavoured with Alpine herbs, to the tartufo style found in the truffle-rich region of Umbria; you can even find amari made from artichokes! Although the Italians tend to serve the liqueur neat or on the rocks, sometimes with a slice of citrus, amari can now be found in cocktail bars around the world thanks to their complex flavour profile and versatility.

The amaro category is actually quite young compared to the history of aromatised wine and spirits on the whole. Steeping herbs and spices in liquid is an old-age tradition which dates back to the time of the Ancient Greeks, albeit the purpose of these herbal concoctions was not to satisfy one’s thirst, but rather to help alleviate stomach pain and aid digestion. A few centuries later during the Middle Ages, the knowledge of distillation was limited to doctors and friars who would macerate botanicals in spirits as well as wine, creating all kinds of medicinal elixirs. In the 1800s, Italian pharmacies began selling these bitter medicinal tonics, but it wasn’t until 1857 that the palatable ‘amaro’ as we know it, sweetened with sugar whilst still maintaining its ‘healing’ properties, was first recorded. Around the turn of the 20th Century, the amaro revolution had begun, with over 70 different recipes recorded. It wasn’t until the end of World War II, however, that the liqueur started to be consumed for enjoyment, and, well, the rest is history!

Inspired by this popular digestivo, we’ve blended a combination of select botanicals including vanilla, citrus and spice with our rich and fruity Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky to create our first Whisky Amaro. We decided to bottle the whisky liqueur at 40% ABV so that the spice and sweetness complement, rather than overwhelm, the delicate flavour coming through from our Single Malt Whisky. Rich and velvety, with notes of cocoa beans, orange citrus fruit and spiced honey, our No.1 Whisky Amaro is best enjoyed well-chilled or on the rocks at the end of a meal. Our next Whisky Amaro will be released in the autumn so be sure to keep an eye out, but for now - salute!


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