The best amari for your superyacht bar

With the current cocktail craze, Amari is enjoying a resurgence. Malachy Duffy shares his favourites.

About halfway through my first trans-atlantic voyage, I awoke one morning feeling less than shipshape, which had nothing to do with the ocean swell, I’d simply overindulged. Fortunately, one of my traveling companions was David Outerbridge, the author of The Hangover Handbook. He prescribed a Fernet-Branca, which he said I’d find at the superyacht bar. It was bitter, but it did the job.

And that was my introduction to the whole class of amari. The name is Italian for “bitter,” but drinks such as these have been made throughout Europe — and now in the United States as well. They are akin to bitters, the concoctions used to add flavour and depth to cocktails, and are made with botanical elements — aromatics, spices, citrus zest — infusing a neutral alcohol. Like bitters, they’ve become in vogue thanks to the current craze for cocktails, and the new breed of bartenders dedicated to crafting drinks with previously passed-over ingredients. Here are some of my favourites.


Dating back to 1919, this is a relative newcomer. Brothers Silvio and Luigi Barbieri created this vibrant orange potion with the belief that there was room for a slightly sweet, lower-alcohol amaro. These characteristics make it a gentle introduction to the world of amari. It is the basis for one of my favourite warm-weather cocktails, the Aperol Spritz.



To show their gratitude for his patronage of their abbey, the monks of Sicily’s Monastero Santo Spirito gave the formula for their amaro to Salvatore Averna. His son spread it through Italy, and it became a favourite of King Vittorio Emanuele III. It remains one of the most popular amari to this day. Dark brown, it tastes of liquorice and chocolate with a touch of citrus. It makes a pleasant drink on its own and lends itself to cocktails.



Gaspare Campari purposely created Campari to serve as an aperitivo. Since 1880, it has gone on to become one of the most widely enjoyed Italian products around the world. It can be drunk with a dash of soda or as an ingredient of classic cocktails such as the Americano and the Negroni.



This elixir was originally intended as medicine to stimulate appetite in those suffering from dehydration, and it was sold in the U.S. throughout Prohibition for that purpose. If you travel to Argentina, you will find that it is the basis for the wildly popular national drink, Fernet con Coca. Fernet-Branca was created in 1845 by Bernardino Branca. Still a family-run business, only the chairman has access to the complete recipe.


Amaro Montenegro

Rather than pursue a religious vocation as he had planned, Stanislao Cobianchi used his extensive knowledge of botanicals to create in 1885 one of the best- selling amari in Italy. He named it for Princess Elena of Montenegro, wife of King Vittorio Emanuele III. It has notes of orange and rosewater.


S. Maria Al Monte Amaro

One of my favourites, I first encountered this amaro at a friend’s house after a long, rich dinner. It proved to be the perfect conclusion to the evening. It has the robust body of Fernet-Branca, but the flavour is lighter, with notes of ginseng, jasmine and pine. The monks at the Santa Maria monastery near Florence developed the original, which was refined in 1892 by Nicola Vignale.


Ramazzotti Amaro

The man who created this amaro, Ausano Ramazzotti, was a marketing genius. Soon after concocting his product, which was notably less bitter than other amari, he opened a little café close to Milan’s La Scala — and sold only his drink in place of the expected coffee. It does, indeed, have coffee/cola notes, along with citrus and a little spice.