An amaro (meaning "bitter") is the quintessential Italian after-dinner cordial, a n herbal liqueur made by infusing alcohol with a wide variety of herbs, roots, aromatics, and spices.
The major commercially produced varieties include Ramazzotti, Averna, Fernet-Branca and Amaro Montenegro and there are hundreds more. Many are made by monasteries throughout Italy, following centuries-old traditional recipes that were originally believed to have medicinal properties.
This recipe for a homemade version yields a simple amaro that's not too sweet and not too strong, about 30% alcohol. A tiny glass will be very tasty at the end of a meal, aiding digestion and spreading a pleasing warmth through your insides. It calls for some somewhat-obscure roots and spices. Your best bet for finding them would probably be a natural-foods store or a homeopathic pharmacy.
A homemade amaro also makes for a really original -- and much-appreciated -- hostess or holiday gift.
[Edited by Danette St. Onge]
- 5 lemon balm leaves (Melissa officinalis)
- 5 sage leaves
- 10 rosemary leaves (not sprigs)
- 1 flowered top of a European Centaury plant
- 15 juniper berries
- 5 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick (1/2 inch long)
- 1 piece Florentine Iris root (orris root, broken up into smaller pieces)
- 1 piece calamus root (sweet flag, broken up into smaller pieces)
- 1 piece yellow gentian root (bitter root, broken up into smaller pieces)
- 1 piece carline thistle root (broken up into smaller pieces)
- 2 flowering milk thistle leaves
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grain alcohol (Everclear)
- 2 2/3 cups white vermouth
- 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- Macerate all of the herbs and spices in the grain alcohol for 5 days in a large glass jar, tightly closed. If it's warm and sunny out, wrap the jar in dark paper to keep the light out and set it in the sun to steep.
- At the same time, combine the vermouth and the sugar in a second glass jar, close it tightly, and store it in a cool, dark place for the same 5-day period; the sugar will gradually dissolve.
- After 5 days, strain the alcohol through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean glass bottle, stopper it, and store in a cool dark place. Transfer the strained herbs and spices to the vermouth-and-sugar jar and let them steep for another 7 days.
- Then strain the infused and sweetened vermouth through a fine-mesh sieve into the bottle with the infused alcohol. Let the mixture sit for 1 day, then filter (through a paper coffee filter). You can, at this point, transfer your homemade amaro into an elegant bottle, tightly corked. Let it age in a cool, dark place for at least 8 months.