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Written by Craig Outhier & Pavle Milic Category: Amuse Bouches Issue: May 2016
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Eat with Your Eyes: Amaro Tutorial

WHEN FOX RESTAURANTS CONCEPTS BEVERAGE DIRECTOR Mat Snapp whips out his big notebook, you know some poor fool is about to get schooled. Roughly the size and girth of a CPA ledger, the journal is stuffed with menus, recipes and notes detailing the cocktail and beer programs at all 15 Fox restaurant brands.

We asked Snapp to dip into some of that vast institutional expertise to instruct us in one of the most difficult mixology arts: making cocktails with the potent Italian digestif known as amaro – enormously popular with professional drink-smiths but unpredictable in the hands of novices.  

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Light amaros.

 “Not all amaros are the strong, herbaceous, anise-driven things you might be familiar with,” Snapp warns. “Some are monster trucks. Some are Lamborghinis.” Sweet and ruby-colored with notes of rose petal and cinnamon, Montenegro is probably closer to the latter. Snapp likes to serve it simply, side by side with a saison (“the notes of clove and cinnamon match really well”) or in light cocktails like the gin-based Martinez.

The Martinez

2 oz. gin

½1/2 oz. Montenegro

1/2 vermouth 

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into glass.

Medium amaros.

From the grappa family comes Amaro Nonino – also on the sweet side, but with a stronger herbal kick and more woodsy flavors. “It’s sort of the amaro equivalent of an añejo tequila,” Snapp says. At North Italia in Phoenix, Snapp uses it in the Rosemary & Lime cocktail: muddled rosemary, lime juice, vodka and a splash of Nonino.

Rosemary & Lime

2 oz. vodka

1 oz. lime juice

½1 oz. Nonino

1 sprig rosemary

Muddle rosemary in a shaker. Add other ingredients. Shake and strain over ice.

Strong amaros. 

These are the amaros that tend to control the conversation with manly bartender types. The most famous is Fernet-Branca, reputed for its stomach-calming powers. Taming it in a cocktail is a dangerous bit of alchemy, but it can be done, Snapp says, by pairing it with dark-toned, fragrant ingredients that won’t get pushed around, like honey and orange bitters. “Also, use it sparingly,” he says.

amaro d’amici

1 oz. Buffalo Trace bourbon

½3/4 oz. honey syrup

3/4 lemon juice

½1/2 oz. Fernet-Branca

Shake with ice, 2 dashes of orange bitters, and 1 dash Angostura bitters. Serve up. 

A list of Fox restaurants – and, by, extension, Snapp’s cocktails – can be found at foxrc.com