Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Amaro Montenegro

We almost always think of wine when we think of Italians and liquor. But a vast, relatively unexplored category of Italian alcohol-based beverages are i liquori (the word means both liquor and liqueur, and in the plural always means the latter). Like other European countries, Italy produces a great number of these.

A sub-category of the liquori are the amari, from the word for bitter. These (as opposed to say, Amaretto di Saronno) are in fact more or less bitter in taste, but not necessarily unpleasant. The rationale behind their consumption is that, being herb-based, they have a medicinal effect and aid in the digestion. They are typically consumed after especially large meals, in particular when dining out. My own personal favorite and (I believe) the best-seller in Italy is the Amaro Montenegro, produced in Bologna and dating back to 1885. It is shown in the photo flanked by its Northern competitors, a bottle of Scotch and one of Jaegermeister, both of which I can do without. Amaro Montenegro is neither cheap nor easy to find in the US. Other amari I enjoy are Amaro Lucano, Amaro Averna and China (pronounced KEE-nah) Martini. Fernet Branca is dreadful and not for the faint of heart.