The Alchemist’s tasting panel revels in the complexities of made-in-B.C. amaros, vermouths and aperitifs
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.
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 Magazine, Westender, Western Living and Georgia Straight, and coming this fall, he’ll be opening his own Spanish-themed bar in Mount Pleasant, Como Taperia.
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.
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.”
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