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In most spirits, flavor comes from the base of the distillate (e.g. apple flavor in Calvados) or from the method of aging (e.g. oak flavors in Bourbon). The class of aromatic liqueurs known as amari (Italian for "bitter"), however, begins with a neutral base of grappa (grape pomace brandy) and derive flavors from an infusion of spices, herbs, roots, fruit, and other botanicals -- though the exact recipe of any given producer is usually secret. Amaro was originally developed as a medicinal tonic designed to aid digestion, and most have a distinctly bitter flavor balanced by a level of sweetness.
Italian amari can be divided into those that are better served before or after a meal, and the alcohol content is usually a clue here; lower-alcohol amari such as Aperol and Campari make better aperitifs and mixers, while higher-alcohol examples such as Averna and Fernet are best served as digestifs after a heavy meal.
|Name||Region of Origin||Primary Flavor||Notes|
|Aperol||Veneto||Orange, Gentian, Rhubarb||One of the lightest bitters; used in a Spritz.|
|Campari||Piemonte||Quinine, Rhubarb, Orange||Great with soda or on the rocks with a twist.|
|Averna||Sicilia||Herbs, Roots, Citrus||A sweeter style, great for beginners.|
|Fernet||Lombardia||Herbs, Roots, Spices||One of the most famous amari; intensely bitter with anise and mint.|
|Branca Menta||Lombardia||Fernet & Mint Oil||A gentler variant, notes of pine & menthol.|
|Ramazzotti||Lombardia||Roots, Orange Peel, Anise||Well balanced, notes of root beer.|
|Nonino||Friuli||Alpine Herbs||Aged in barrique, very smooth and balanced.|
|Montenegro||Emilia-Romagna||Orange and Rose||Very light and gentle.|
|Meletti||Marche||Orange Peel & Gentian Root||Balanced sweetness with a nutty quality.|
|Sibilla||Marche||Herbs, Spices, and Wild Mountain Honey||Quite bitter and herbal with a touch of sweetness.|
|Cio Ciaro||Lazio||Bitter Orange||Citrusy and herbal.|
|Cynar||Lombardia||Artichoke||Vegetal and herbal.|
|Cardamaro||Piemonte||Moscato wine with Cardoons & Thistle||One of the only wine-based amari.|