Amour for amaro

The Alchemist’s tasting panel revels in the complexities of made-in-B.C. amaros, vermouths and aperitifs

The lineup (l to r): Long Table Distillery’s Linnaeus Amaro No. 1, de Vine’s Moderna Vermouth, The Woods Spirit Co’s Pacific Northwest Amaro, Goodrich and Williams’ Bitterhouse Rubato, Bitterhouse DaMan and Bitterhouse LaDame aperitifs, Legend Distilling’s Naramaro amaro, Odd Society’s Mia Amata amaro and Bittersweet Vermouth. Dan Toulgoet photo

Consider them the supporting actors of the cocktail world: complex, helpful and a little bitter. Vermouths, aperitifs and amaros are typically fortified wines—though some are sweet enough to be considered liqueurs—flavoured with botanicals such as citrus peel, spices, roots and herbs. They typically have a somewhat bitter profile, hence the name “amaro,” which means bitter in Italian.

It takes a sophisticated palate to appreciate a good bitter drink, so not too surprisingly, Vancouver bartenders were eager to sample the best of B.C. amaros. We sat down with Alex Black of Tableau Bar Bistro, Amber Bruce of The Keefer Bar, cocktail consultant Sabrine Dhaliwal, Robyn Gray of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia and The Botanist’s Jeff Savage to get at the bitter truth.

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SEA TO SKY RAD-LER BEER COCKTAIL

Shaun Layton’s Sea To Sky RAD-ler. Dan Toulgoet photo

Made with Vancouver Craft Beer Week’s 2018 Collaboration Beer, Sea To Sky Double Dry-Hopped Pilsner, by bartender Shaun Layton of Backcountry Brewing.

If you’ve been following the burgeoning cocktail scene in Vancouver over the past decade, there’s a good chance you’ve come across bartender Shaun Layton and his spirited creations. Having managed the bar programs at hotspots like George, L’Abattoir and Juniper, Layton has a well-earned reputation as one of the West Coast’s top cocktailiers. He’s been named Vancouver’s Bartender of the Year by Vancouver MagazineWestenderWestern Living and Georgia Straight, and coming this fall, he’ll be opening his own Spanish-themed bar in Mount Pleasant, Como Taperia.

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Havelin

Jason Cheung, assistant bar manager at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, makes the Havelin.

As an aspiring newcomer in the cocktail scene, Jason Cheung, born and raised in Vancouver, draws on his extensive training with mentors in some of the industry’s top bars.

His bar style is young and fresh, while still bringing you the traditional cocktails you know and love.

Currently at Boulevard as the assistant bar manager, he hopes to shake up the paradigm of traditional mixology and start a new generation in the industry.

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Don’t Call Me Shirley!

Wildebeest’s Don’t Call Me Shirley. Jonathan Norton photo

This cocktail is an ode to the town of Shirley on Vancouver Island, whose name was shortened from Sheringham in order to fit on a postage stamp.

INGREDIENTS:
1.3 oz Sheringham Akvavit
0.3 oz Amaro Montenegro
0.3 oz Noilly Pratt Extra Dry

METHOD:
Combine ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass rimmed with a rosemary solution (salt, water, rosemary). Garnish with a smoked olive.

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Bushel and a Pec

Bushel and a Pec by Justin Taylor. Danika Sea photo

INGREDIENTS:
4 oz bourbon
4 oz amaro
12 oz fresh pressed cider
2 dashes Scrappy’s Firewater bitters
Cinnamon and lemon zest (for garnish)

METHOD:
Pour ingredients (except garnish) into a small saucepan and bring to a temperature of no more than 80 degrees Celsius (use a thermometer, otherwise you could boil off all the alcohol). Remove from heat, divide evenly between four mugs and garnish with freshly grated cinnamon and lemon zest. Serves 4.

 

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Mork from Ork

The Mork from Ork cocktail by Amber Bruce. Talia Kleinplatz photo.

Winner of the Giffard Iron Mixologist 2017

INGREDIENTS:
0.5 oz Giffard Banane du Brésil
1 oz genever
0.3 oz Odd Society Mia Amata Amaro
0.5 oz port
0.5 oz Spiced Mork Syrup (simple syrup spiced with cardamom)
1 whole egg
Nutmeg for garnish

METHOD:
Add all ingredients to a shaker and dry shake to emulsify egg. Add ice and shake again. Fine strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with grated nutmeg.

­—by Amber Bruce

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The romance of amaro

Odd Society’s Mia Amata is just the latest in BC’s bumper crop of the potable bitter. Dan Toulgoet photo

First there’s chocolate – dark and rich. Then spice—a whole caravan of exotic flavours and aromas from faraway lands. The bitterness lands next – astringent, clean, pleasantly mouthwatering. Throughout, delicate florals, dried fruits and an underlying sweetness keep everything in balance. There’s plenty to love about the new Mia Amata amaro from Odd Society Spirits, and not just because it counts Brazilian aphrodisiacs among its botanical makeup.

“I wanted to make it a modern-style bitter,” says Mia Glanz, the bartender who created it. “It took three years of work. I discarded an original recipe and started again.”

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The Woods Spirit Co.

Friends Joel Myers and Fabio Martini’s West Coast version of Amaro uses traditional botanicals such as rhubarb and bitter orange, as well as the more unconventional grand fir.

1450 Rupert Street, North Vancouver (opening soon)
778-996-7637
TheWoodsSpiritCo.com


PRODUCTS:

• Pacific Northwest Amaro


TASTING NOTES:


Pacific Northwest Amaro

FRAGRANCE: Bright, fresh rhubarb, bitter orange peel dominate. Quince and nutmeg, too.
FLAVOUR: Bright, bitter citrus, herbs and unripe strawberry.
FEEL: A little thin.
FINISH: Quite bitter with clove, allspice and quinine.
BEST ENJOYED: After dinner. Try as a replacement to the Amaro Nonino in a Paper Plane.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Quality like this usually takes decades to perfect. A must-have for local spirit enthusiasts. —Shaun Layton, October 2017