The Bitter End
Cynar, the artichoke-based bitter Italian liqueur, which is made from 13 herbs and plants, has become a bartender’s favorite in recent years. Aperol and Campari have seen a resurgence in popularity, as have other amari.
“Consumers are recognizing the sub-categories and are ordering drinks like Campari and Soda and Americanos more than ever before,” Kim says. At Tico and The Riggsby, amaros and Fernet Branca are top sellers—in part because the general public is more knowledgeable and sophisticated, she notes.
These spirits also appear in drinks such as the Bait & Switch ($11), in which Mexican Fernet and Mexican Coke mingle with Angostura bitters and mint. Tico’s 14th Street Shuffle cocktail ($12) uses aged rum, lime, Angostura bitters and cardamaro, a wine-based Italian digestif infused with botanicals.
“Bitter in products like Campari and Fernet Branco lead people away from the suspicion that all liqueurs are way too sweet,” says Pappas. The Rosalita ($10) stirs rye with Cocchi Americano Rosa in a glass that’s rinsed with Campari and Peychaud’s; the drink is garnished with a grapefruit twist.
“Amaros are the bee’s knees due to bartenders creating strong, stirred cocktails that need a bitter component,” adds Bogue of Earls Restaurants.
While amaros are a great way to end a meal, offerings from the liqueur category can be a part of a diner’s entire evening, says Devon’s Marti. She points out that guests may start the evening with a Kir Royale and end it with a rich and decadent liquid dessert.
“The art of cocktail making is at the forefront of the most progressive bars and restaurants, and bartenders no longer mix mundane drinks with subpar ingredients,” Marti says. Versatile and intriguing, liqueurs and cordials add a splash of the sweet—or bitter, or herbal—to the glass.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer and wine educator in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.