Jeffrey Moll on Amaro

Here’s what I know about amaro: it’s Italian, and Randolfi’s master mixologist, Jeffrey Moll, likes loves it.

That’s it.

I asked Moll to give me the run down on 5 of his favorite amari so I can add them to my bar and impress my friends, and now you can too. Or you could just go over to Randolfi’s, pull up a seat at the bar, and learn something from the master himself. Plus, his name fall cocktail menu just arrived, and it is immense. [Randolfi’s has since closed, but you can still find Jeffrey slangin’ drinks around town]


Averna Amaro

This amaro was my very first experience with amaro and certainly one of the more recognizable brands. It’s definitely on the sweet side in the spectrum of amari. I get a big hit of rich cola and bitter orange from it. Because it’s one of the more sweet, thick, and ‘chewy’ amari, it’s really nice neat as as an after dinner libation, much like a port wine. It really opens up with a generous amount of soda water and I strongly recommend replacing the sweet vermouth in your next Manhattan—with Averna, it’s known as a Black Manhattan.

Luxardo Amaro

This is the amaro that made me fall in love with amari for the first time. I went to Taste with my friend Seth, who was running the bar at MEDIAnoche at the time. I saw it on the shelf and asked for a pour. Right out of the gate, I got a ton of black pepper on the nose. My tasting notes consisted of black pepper, menthol, and cinnamon, if you look a little deeper. I begged Seth to pick up a bottle for the bar at work and it remained a staple throughout MEDIAnoche, Little Country Gentleman, Good Pie 2.0 and currently at Randolfi’s. It has made its way into several drinks and I found that it lends itself best to mezcal drinks, champagne cocktails, and drinks with a healthy measure of oloroso or P.X. sherry. I recommend this amaro neat or over ice. If you throw any sort of bubbles at it, make sure you do it with tonic, or as a spritz with a dry cava and a touch of soda water, garnished with some mint sprigs.

Amaro Sibilia

I would call this my “Amaro Graduation Exam”. It’s nothing terribly extreme, but it’s an amaro that’s not for everyone. It’s very dry, very bitter and very expensive. It’s finished with honey from Mount Sibillini, so you’re provided a small window to the local flora where it’s produced.This is the one that I had to try the hardest to find its nuances. Its aroma is very fragrant and floral. At first the taste is dry and bitter gentiane. That way fresh churned earth smells, it’s that. The honey is the hard one to find if you don’t know it’s in there, but once you do, you get it every time. If you can break this one down, you can break pretty much any other amaro you come across. I often use this amaro as a way to put sweeter cocktails in check. Aside from that, my opinion it to drink it neat or over ice, but it does work really nicely with big scotches like Lagavulin 16 and with nocino.

Lazzaroni Amaro

I don’t have any sort of romantic story to offer for this amaro. It came into our market and I really enjoy the rest of Lazzaroni’s lineup, especially their amaretto, so I picked this one up for the restaurant bar. Lately, this is the amaro I am drinking the most of at home. Aromatically, it is similar to Cynar, Zucca, or Amaro Sfumato: smokey veg. The taste is spot on for a dark chocolate peppermint patty. At work, this amaro has only made it’s way into one cocktail called “May All Your Days Be Gold” (I’m a bit of a Sparklehorse fan), but at home, I am drinking this as a 3:2 amaro to soda water over ice. I can guarantee that it will find it’s way into at least a few hot chocolates.

Fernet Amaro

People who don’t usually drink amaro are usually pretty taken back by fernet. The fernet that most of us are familiar with is Fernet Branca. I often describe it as tasting like Christmas tree-flavored Listerine. Fernets are a special subcategory of amaro. They are much drier, more bitter, and extremely mentholated. Fernets are nothing to trifled with, but they’re nothing that deserves to be feared. I can tell you that in the case of Fernet Branca, I have had three regionally different versions.

The one we get here is my least favorite because of its extreme nature. I have had this same brand from Europe and Argentina and the differences are night and day. The latter two in comparison to our American version are a lot more amiable. They’re still dry, bitter and mentholated, but to a lesser extent, so you get more of the bitter herbs and aren’t overwhelmed like ours. THIS is why I love Lazzaroni’s Fernet so much more. Its just easier to drink and a great introductory fernet-style amaro. I often use this to make Fanciullis and to settle my stomach after I’ve over-eaten. I recommend this one over ice to mute a little of its intensity—definitely with an equal part of soda water and a lemon or orange peel expressed across it.