It seems to me that as cooking shows educate the American palate more and more, bitter is finally coming into its own. Amaro is an informative and interesting introduction to amaro, the bitter liqueurs made by steeping marcerated bitter herbs, barks, flowers, and such in a neutral spirit or wine and then sweetening. Most amari (plural of amaro) are Italian, though Underberg, my favorite, is German. If you’re new to amaro liqueurs, let me recommend Underberg, which is sold only in single serving bottles or in cases of single bottles, as an inexpensive way to test the waters.

There are basically five flavor types that we can perceive: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Most of us easily love sweet, salty, and umami. It takes a bit more for us to learn to love sour and bitter. I am sure every family has a photo of a child tasting a lemon or a bit of raw kale for the first time and making that face, the face of one too young to know the joys of sour and bitter flavors.

Bitter is coming into its own lately, in cooking and most particularly, in cocktails. Here in Portland, more and more fine restaurants offer an array of digestifs that celebrate bitter.flavor and dozens of clever cocktails centered on amaro. So far, every amaro cocktail I have tasted has been delicious, though my exploration is far shorter than Brad Thomas Parsons, the author of Amaro.

The book is well-organized, introducing us to the history and background of Amaro, specific types and brands of amaro, some stories about amaro in the wild (in bars), and many cocktails with adorably clever names.


Amaro is an excellent addition to the cocktail connoisseurs shelf. Most books on alcohol focus on the common cocktails, wine, champagne, or beer. It is fabulous to find a book that takes a look at amaro, those still under appreciated bitter liqueurs that taste of far-away places, mysterious herbs and magical enchantments.

There are personal anecdotes, beautiful pictures and a wealth of information. Parsons is right to forge this new path, exploring the drinks that are less well-known. There are dozens of books that will tell you about rum, vodka and how to make a good gin and tonic, but very few will tell you how to make Eeyore’s Requiem, inspired by what its creator calls the most bitter character in literature, it uses three amari. By the way, I am so glad the index lists all the  Fernet cocktails (like Eeyore’s Requiem) under Fernet and I love the stories behind the cocktails and their names.

I recommend Amaro for cocktail lovers and for people like me who love the culture of food and drink even when I don’t get to taste everything.

Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas


I was provided a review copy of Amaro through Blogging for Books.

9781607747482, 1607747480
$26.00 USD, $35.00 CAD
 Ten Speed Press
280 pages