Amari & Friends

Bitter liqueurs from Italy and beyond

Amaro (or amari for plural) means bitter in Italian, just as Amer and amère do in French. Bitter liqueurs are made throughout the world, particularly in Europe. For ease of reference, "Amaro" has been omitted from the brand names. ABV is for the United States; elsewhere may vary.


While each amaro is unique and each taster has individual preferences, some amari stand out as being of particularly high quality or utility. Our recommendations are based upon the collective opinions of the curators, and the frequency with which we see these used in cocktails.

If you are just starting out with bitter ingredients, start with Campari. While moderately bitter, Campari is specified in many cocktails, both historic and modern. When used in small quantities, it can be quite accessible. Aperol is less bitter and mixes well, although by itself it has an alarming orange soda pop aspect. Cynar is earthy and savory. It makes a good alternative to Campari. And last, try using Punt e Mes in lieu of your favorite sweet vermouth.

For the experienced amaro lover, dell'Erborista and/or Sibilia, both from Varnelli in Italy, are dry, piercingly bitter, smoky and complex. They work well in small quantities in cocktails, and more importantly can be sipped and lingered over. Sublime.

Brand Type Dominant flavors ABV Origin Color Bitterness Sugar Availability Notes Rec'd
Aperol Orange Bitter orange/tangerine, orange soda pop,subtle rhubarb 11% Italy Vivid orange Mild Med-low Common Accessible. Useful in cocktails. ★★★
Averna Pie spice Pie spice, raisins 29% Italy Dark brown Medium Medium Common Excellent. Widely used in cocktails. ★★★
Bigallet’s China-China Orange Bitter orange, orange 40% France Dark brown Medium Med-Low Less common Excellent substitution for Amer Picon. Excellent sipped. Mixes extremely well. ★★★
Branca (Fernet) Fernet Eucalyptus, menthol, peppermint 40% Lombardia, Italy Medium brown High Low Common Common cocktail ingredient. Excellent sipper for the brave. ★★★
Campari Citrus Citrus 24% Italy Vivid red Medium Medium Common The king of bitter liqueurs. Widely used in cocktails. ★★★★
CioCiaro Orange Bitter orange, herbal, touch cinnamon 30% Italy Dark brown Medium Medium Less common Excellent. May be used in a reproduction of Amer Picon. ★★★
Cynar Savory Savory, herbal. Made from artichokes. 16.5% Italy Dark brown Medium Medium Common The queen of bitter liqueurs. Widely used and highly versatile. ★★★★
dell'Erborista Earthy Spice, rhubarb, honey, smoke 21% Italy Light brown, cloudy Extreme Very low Difficult Superb. For the experienced amaro lover. Excellent for sipping. Expensive. 1L bottle. ★★★★★
Gran Classico Citrus Citrus, floral 28% Switzerland Amber Medium Medium Common Similar to Campari, but more floral. ★★★★
Meletti Chocolate Strong gestalt of chocolate, touch orange 32% Italy Dark brown Medium Medium Less common For the serious collector.
Unique. Excellent. ​Used occasionally in cocktails.
Nonino Pie spice Pie spice, herbal, complex, caramel, anise 35% Fruili, Italy Amber, reddish Med- mild Medium to low Common Grappa based. Very high quality. Excellent for sipping. Relatively expensive. ★★★
Punt e Mes Vermouth Bitter sweet vermouth 16% Italy Brown Med-mild Medium Common Not a true liqueur, but a vermouth / amaro hybrid. Much more bitter than typical sweet vermouth. Extremely useful and delicious. ★★★★
Ramazzotti Pie spice Cola, pie spice 30% Italy Dark brown Medium Medium Common Excellent mixing amaro. ★★★
Sibilla Earthy Earthy, warm, honey, smoke 35% Italy Light brown Extreme Very low Difficult Superb. Sister to dell'Erborista.  For the experienced amaro lover. 1L bottle. ★★★★★
Zucca Savory Savory and vegetal 17% Italy Dark brown Medium Medium Less common Made from rhubarb. Much stronger and more bitter than Aperol, and without orange. ​Substitute for Cynar. .  ★★★

Other amari

Just because we didn't single these out for recommendation doesn't mean that we don't think they have a place in your liquor cabinet. The avid amaro lover might collect these and many more. There are hundreds of amari that are not imported into the US.

Brand Type Dominant flavors ABV Origin Color Bitterness Sugar Availability Notes
Abano Dark Black pepper 30% Italy Dark brown Medium Medium Less common Unique. Excellent. Recommended for the serious collector. Used occasionally in modern cocktails.
Amer Picon Orange Bitter orange 21% Italy       Unavailable Classic cocktail ingredient. Not imported into USA.
Becherovka Spice Cinnamon, almost tropical 38% Czech Republic Dark brown Mild Medium Common Accessible. Mixes well. Use a substitute for cinnamon syrup.
Braulio Alpine Mint, pine 21% Italy Dark brown Med-High Medium Less common Nice sipping amaro.
Branca Menta Mint Mint, menthol 30% Italy Greenish brown Mild Medium Less common Extremely minty.
Breckenridge Bitters Herbal Herbal, citrus 36% USA Tan Med-Low Med Less common Novel bottle.
BroVo #1 Spice Pie spice, citrus 25% USA Redish        
BroVo #4 Citrus Citrus, eucalyptus 25% USA Brown        
BroVo #14 Chocolate Chocolate, pie spice 25% USA Brown        
Calisaya Orange Bitter orange 35% USA Deep orange Medium Medium Uncommon  
Cardamaro Savory Wine, savory. 17% Italy   Mild Medium to low Less common Made from wine, Cardoon (a thistle-like relative of the artichoke) and Blessed Thistle.
Cocchi (Dopo Teatro) Wine   16% Italy Dark red        
Contratto (Fernet) Fernet   30% Italy          
de Lure (Gentiane) Wine Wine, citrus 16% France          
del Capo (Vecchio) Pie spice Anise, orange 35% Italy Brown Medium Medium Less common Good mixing potential. Accessible sipper.
Jägermeister Herbal Herbal 35% Germany Brown Medium High Common High quality, despite popularity with frat boys.
Jelinek Fernet (R.) Fernet Mint (mild), pie spice, fruit 38% Czech Republic Brown Med-low Medium Less common Very mild for a fernet. Mixes easily without dominating.
Leopold Highland Fernet Mint Menthol 40% USA Brown Medium Medium Medium  
Lucano Pie spice Pie spice, some citrus 30% Italy Dark brown Medium Medium Less common Excellent. Substitute for Amer Picon, although not that similar.
Luxardo (Aperitivo) Citrus Orange, bitter orange 11% Italy Vivid orange Med-low Med-high Less common Alternative to Aperol.
Luxardo (Bitter) Citrus Citrus 25% Italy Vivid red Medium Medium Less common Very similar to Campari. Somewhat less expensive.
Luxardo (Fernet) Fernet Peppermint, menthol 40% Italy Light brown       Similar to Fernet Branca. Somewhat less expensive.
Malört  (Jeppson's)     35% USA   Extreme   Very Difficult.  
Malört (R. Franklin)   Anise 50% USA Straw     Difficult  
Montenegro Orange Orange and bitter orange 32% Italy Brown Mild High Less common  
My Amaro (Lorenzo Inga) Floral Floral, menthol 30% Italy Brown Medium Medium Uncommon Mild.
Nardini Orange Bitter orange, peppermint, anise 31% Italy Mahogany Medium Medium Common 1L bottle. A less minty alternative to Fernet.
Riga Black Balsams Herbal Complex, herbal 45% Latvia Nearly black High Medium to low Less common Unique. Best aged for a year. Interesting mixing potential. Intense for sipping.
Salers Wine Herbal 16% France Straw Med-low Med-low Common  
Santa Maria al Monte Mint Mint, orange 40% Italy Dark brown       1L bottle.
Suze Earthy Floral, orange 20% France Amber Med-low Medium Less common Good classic and modern cocktail use.
Tosolini Herbal Anise, citrus 28% Italy Brown Med-low Medium Uncommon  
Vallet (Fernet) Pie spice Pie spice, anise 35% Mexico Dark brown Medium Medium Less common  
Zwack (Liqueur) Cherry Cherry, fruit 40% Hungary Dark brown Mild High Less common  
Zwack Unicum     40% Hungary   Very high   Unavailable Extremely bitter. Not imported into the USA.