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Lindsay Matteson’s Italian Amari Picks

When Lindsay Matteson says her “bitters-bar background runs deep,” she’s not exaggerating. Having logged four years at Amor y Amargo in New York City, which included a two-year stint as head bartender, Matteson is currently the bar manager at Seattle’s The Walrus and The Carpenter, following a year at amaro-focused sister bar Barnacle. “What appeals to me is how much bang for your buck you get with amari: one liqueur is infused with many herbs and spices,” Matteson says. “Having an amaro in your home bar is like a secret weapon. A touch of it immediately makes any cocktail special.” Matteson recommends drinking amari with soda in a spritz, or sharing the liqueurs with guests after dinner parties. “Amari are designed to soothe your stomach and help you feel better, in addition to tasting delicious … what’s not to love?” Here are her quintessential five, arranged from least bitter to most.

Amaro Amorino Amaro Amorino is “a delicate and complex amaro made here in Seattle,” Matteson says. Letterpress Distilling founder Skip Tognetti named Amorino—which is built off a flavor base of Seville orange peel—in honor of his grandfather, who ran a neighborhood liquor store in Rome. “Beautiful sarsaparilla notes make this a great hot-weather amaro—I like it in a spritz or an Americano with blanc vermouth—as well as during the holiday season.” $38,

Vecchio Amaro del Capo “This is my all-time favorite amaro,” says Matteson of the Fratelli Caffo distillery’s flagship. Macerated with 29 flowers, herbs, fruits, and roots from Southern Italy and “coming from the Calabrian coast, this amaro is a little lighter in bitterness, with great baking spice and orange notes,” she says. “This is a great amaro to start with if you’re new to amari. It’s versatile and plays well in all sorts of cocktails, from gin sours to Manhattans.” $26.99,

Nardini Bassano Amaro “Made by a family known for their grappas since the 1700s, this is my go-to amaro after a big Italian meal,” Matteson says. Infused with bitter orange, peppermint, and the roots of Alpine yellow gentian, Nardini “is going to be slightly more bitter, but still medium-bitterness, with a bright mint note that helps settle the stomach.” $49.96,

Cappelletti Amaro Sfumato Rabarbaro “This amaro is made [with] rhubarb native to the Trentino-Alto Adige region where it’s [from],” says Matteson of this relatively recent import to the U.S. “Unlike other Rabarbaros that we see in the U.S., this one has a smoky character, which gives it the name Sfumato [derived from the Italian word for smoke, fumo]. Try it in a mezcal cocktail or pour it over ice—it will pleasantly change in flavor as it dilutes.” $21.99,

Varnelli Amaro dell’Erborista The Varnelli family crafts this amaro using herbs, roots, and barks from the Sibillini Mountains prepared over a wood fire in Italy’s Marches region. “This is a unique, sexy amaro. It’s light in color and unfiltered, giving it a [distinctive] look,” says Matteson. “Although it’s [sweetened with] honey, this is one of the most bitter amari available in the United States. It is also surprisingly low-proof: I drink it with club soda and a grapefruit twist all summer.” $64.50,

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