These amaro cocktails are the best ways to mix up this family of Italian bitter liqueurs! Try them all, from classic drinks to modern spins.
Got a bottle of amaro, or need an excuse to grab one? Amaro is trending: and it’s got no where to go but up! Amaro or amari (plural) refers to a family of Italian herbal liqueurs that taste bitter. In fact, amaro means bitter in Italian. This family encompasses a wide range of spirits: Campari on one end, Aperol in the middle, and hundreds of varieties in between. Your local liquor store should stock a range of amari, each with different flavor profiles.
Here are the best must-try amaro cocktails to mix up with a bottle! From bright red and citrusy to brown and caramely, here are the amaros represented in the cocktail list below! Each cocktail includes a brief definition of tasting notes for each type. You can interchange any of the brown, bittersweet amaro types of items 1-4.
First up in our amaro cocktails: The Black Manhattan! This classy drink swaps out sweet vermouth for an Italian amaro. It’s strong and boozy, like any good Manhattan, but with caramel and chocolate notes on the finish. The one’s one of a kind, especially for the astute home bartender who’s delighted by the excuse to purchase a specialty liqueur.
Amaro in this cocktail: Averna Amaro is an Italian amaro made in Sicily, Italy since 1868. It’s dark brown and the flavor is spicy, and herbal, with caramel and honey notes.
Looking for a refreshing, bubbly amaro cocktail that’s light and carefree? Meet the Amaro Spritz! The classic spritz works with any Italian bitter: just follow the classic spritz ratio of 3-2-1. With a favorite amaro (Meletti), it’s glowing golden brown and tastes almost like cola, with caramely notes.
Amaro in this cocktail: Amaro Meletti is a dark brown, sweet amaro. It’s rich and caramel-y, complex and balanced, with flavors from saffron to anise.
If you’re an avid amaro cocktail drinker, here’s a must-make drink: the Paper Plane! A brilliant study in balance and contrast, it's bitter, sweet and tangy all at once, and hits a magical synergy between the bourbon and amaro. You might think it was a classic cocktail, but did 1920’s bartenders mix Kentucky bourbon with Italian bitters? No, this one’s a true modern classic…and one of the best cocktails you'll have.
Amaro in this cocktail: Nonino Quintessentia Amaro has hints of caramel, vanilla, allspice, and bitter orange. This is the type of amaro originally used for the the Paper Plane, but you can also use Meletti.
Here's another unique amaro cocktail spin on the Manhattan: the Brooklyn cocktail! The Brooklyn is similarly spirit forward, with a few special twists to add nuance. Maraschino liqueur and dry vermouth add intrigue and round out the flavor in this sophisticated drink. This one is perfect for impressing friends at a dinner party or cocktail hour.
Amaro in this cocktail: Amaro Tosolini is a rich medium brown amaro that's sweet and herbal, with a spicy citrusy finish.
Here’s a fancy amaro cocktail to impress all your friends: the Fernet Sour! This is one of the most uniquely delicious cocktails we’ve ever had. It’s also known as the Industry Sour, starring bitter and herbal Fernet-Branca, funky green Chartreuse, and lime juice. There’s so much nuance in flavor going on, you can barely describe it: sweet, sour, bitter and refreshing all at once.
Amaro in this cocktail: Fernet Branca, an intensely bitter and herbaceous liqueur. It has a higher alcohol content than most amaros: 40 to 45% alcohol. (Say it “Fair-net brahn-ka”.)
Here's a boozy amaro cocktail with Fernet-Branca: try the Toronto! If you love whiskey drinks, this is the cocktail for you. A spin on the Old Fashioned, the Toronto features whiskey and Fernet-Branca. It's sophisticated, complex, and rich, balancing the earthiness of the rye whiskey with the subtle bitterness of the Fernet-Branca.
Here's most popular amaro cocktail of them all: the Negroni! Campari is technically an Italian amaro. This classic cocktail dates back to the 1920's and is equal parts refreshing, bitter, and complex. The bright red of the Campari makes for a stunning jewel-tone statement of a drink. It's easy to make and memorize because it uses 1 ounce of each of its three components.
Amaro in this cocktail: Campari is the most popular Italian amaro, at the bitter end of the spectrum. It's bright red in color and tastes spicy, citrusy and intensely bitter.
Here’s a modern amaro cocktail: the Jungle Bird! It’s one of the few rum cocktails to pair tropical flavors with an Italian amaro, Campari. Campari perfectly balances the drink and gives the finish an intriguing complexity. In fact, it’s become a favorite around here…and that’s saying something, given our extensive library of cocktails. It hits all the right notes: sweet, tart, fruity, and bitter.
Bubbly, citrusy, herbal, subtly bitter and lightly sweet…it’s the most classic bubbly mixed drink of them all. Meet the Aperol spritz! This drink is renowned the world over, reaching max popularity in the 2000’s. But did you know it’s actually a classic cocktail from the 1950’s? This Italian cocktail has been capturing hearts and minds for years. Taste one made the right way: it’s absolutely worth the hype.
Amaro in this cocktail: Aperol, another popular Italian amaro at the sweet end of the spectrum. It's bright orange and lightly sweet, bitter, and balanced, with a finish of herbs and orange.
Finally in our amaro cocktails, an Aperol cocktail that's modern and fresh: Naked and Famous! It's as impressive as its name…from first sip! It’s got only four ingredients but beautifully balanced, the perfect harmony of smoky, citrus, bitter and sweet. This modern cocktail was created in 2011, but it’s got nods to the past alluding to a historic cocktail that we know and love. This one is a true standout.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.