Drink Like An Italian
All the old amari on the bar
They collect dust, don't you know
And all those grappas no one drinks
It’s kinda sad that people think they’re gross.
Ay oh whey oh, ay oh waaay ohhhhhh
Drink like an Italian...
Maley Aperitivo Sidro Pommerbe, Valle d’Aosta
It’s not a vermouth, it’s not a cider, it’s Pommerbe! The next time you find yourself heading to a dinner party, bring a chilled bottle of this along with you for aperitif hour. Impress your friends with your knowledge of esoteric spirits. Produced by the only cider maker in Northern Italy’s Valle d’Aosta (ever since that pesky Mussolini considered cider to be too French and outlawed it), Pommerbe is a fortified apple cider infused with herbs and spices. Coming in at 18% ABV it’s light and easy to drink, just serve over ice with a twist of citrus or have fun with it in cocktails. Either way, prepare some space in your fridge for a bottle.
Nardini Tagliatella, Bassano
Now infused with more pasta! J/k. This is an aperitif that you could describe as a cocktail in a bottle, ready to drink with some ice and an orange peel, just top it with a splash of soda water, tonic, or a dry sparkling wine. This fruity aperitivo drinks like a cross between rosso vermouth and a sweeter amaro and weighs in at a respectable 35%. It’s a one-liter bottle, for those inclined to share with friends, but no one will judge you for keeping it all to yourself.
Amara Amaro, Sicily
Approachable and citrusy, and a killer cocktail ingredient. Made from Sicilian blood oranges sourced from Mt Etna, it’s both rich and bright, while retaining a nice bitter finish. Fans of Amaro Montenegro might enjoy sipping this, as would those who enjoy a nip of Grand Marnier. Lots of citrus peel and zest. And while it’s quite nice to sip after dinner, I would also recommend this as your new go-to orange liqueur for Margaritas (made with mezcal of course).
Bresca Dorada Mirto, Sardinia
It’s not surprising if you haven’t tried Mirto before. A staple of the mediterranean island of Sardinia, this liqueur is made from the berries (and sometimes leaves) of the myrtle tree. There are very few commercially produced Mirtos in existence, so to find one in the states is a treat. Typically this traditional spirit is made in Saridian households from family recipes, or in restaurants as a house specialty. The producers of Bresca Dorada got their start as honey producers, so it was natural for them to add the local honey as a sweetener to their Mirto, giving it another layer of depth. Enjoy after dinner as you would an amaro or Limoncello.
Bonnollo Grappa Amarone Barrique, Moderna
A lot of people think of grappa as passe, harsh, and possibly a distant relative to paint thinner. Just like with bad tequila, a bad grappa experience can be haunting. Let’s get you acquainted with an underappreciated category that’s been tainted by a few bad apples. First, start with a fresh pomace. The remnants of winemaking, this can include the skins, pulp, stems and seeds leftover from pressing the grapes. Using them immediately for distillation, rather than letting them sit and oxidize, makes a tremendous difference in quality. Add one extra step, barrel aging in large Amarone wine casks, and you get an elegant, after dinner sipper that will blow away all your misconceptions about the much-maligned spirit.
By Nat Harry, Spirits Buyer