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Amaro: The Newest Spirit Making a Splash in London

Helen Alexander

Senior Contributor

It’s no secret, Londoners love gin. But have you heard about the latest spirit to be causing a stir on the city’s drinks scene? Amaro is an Italian bitter-sweet herbal liqueur that started life hundreds of years ago as a medicine and is today being served as an aperitif and a digestif, as well as being mixed into some incredibly inventive cocktails. We take a look at where to try and buy amaro when exploring the capital city’s bars, restaurants and bottle shops.

Grand designs at Gloria

If you’re looking for extravagant Italian dining, then you’ve most definitely come to the right place because the decadent décor at this Shoreditch bar and restaurant has people swooning before they’ve even reached their seats. The menu might feature fresh pasta dishes, cured meats, Cicchetti sharing snacks and a selection of creamy burrata cheeses, but this place is a million miles from a traditional trattoria.

If you’ve ever enjoyed an Aperol Spritz then you’ve already encountered amaro, even if you weren’t aware of it at the time and, at Gloria, the bartenders serve Venice’s answer to the Aperol Spritz. The Spritz Veneziano is made with gin, prosecco, sparkling water, blood orange bitters and the floating city’s beloved Aperitivo Select.

Meanwhile, negroni fans should opt for the Negronly You cocktail. The special ingredient in this punchy blend of gin, Cinzano, Campari and figs is a dash of Amaro Montenegro, which is distilled in Bologna and features a fragrant blend of 40 botanicals, including vanilla, orange peel and eucalyptus. Named after Princess Elena of Montenegro when it was created in 1885, it’s a suitably royal end to any meal.

54-56 Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3QR

Gloria's bar mixes marble with copper tones

Credit: Jérôme Galland

Head to Vermuteria for an amaro education

Take a bike trip around Italy, France and Spain without having to sit in a saddle at this welcoming bar that’s inspired by the bodegas and cafes found on some of Europe’s most famous Grand Tour cycling routes. As the name suggests, vermouth is front and centre, but there are also more than 20 varieties of amaro on offer and divided into citrus and fruity, alpine, herbaceous and medicinal flavour profiles. Make your selection and enjoy it straight up, served on ice, as a spritz or mixed with soda or tonic water.

This is also a great venue to discover what London-based distillers Asterley Bros. are getting up to. Bottles of their Dispense amaro sit behind the bar, while two specially created vermouths are available on tap. The Dry version features marjoram, jasmine, chamomile, lemon peel and wormwood, while Rosso is a slightly sweeter mix of orange zest, rhubarb, dandelion and dried rosemary.

Sitting pretty in the Coal Drops Yard development at King’s Cross, and decorated with vintage cycling memorabilia, Vermuteria is a dangerously delicious diversion – prepare to pedal your way through a menu of rustic dishes that range from crab croquettes and duck terrine to slow-braised beef.

38/39 Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross, London N1C 4DQ

Spoilt for choice at Vermuteria

Credit: Vermuteria

Hedonism Wines has your spirit shopping sorted

If you are thinking about picking up a few bottles to start your own amaro collection at home, then this Mayfair shop is a must-visit. Home to thousands of bottles of wines and spirits, it’s a handsome library of liquids that are run by a team of knowledgeable staff who can help you find what you are looking for and introduce you to tipples you might never have tried. Look out for drop-in tasting sessions and, if you feel like picking up a very generous present for someone special (or for yourself), ask to be introduced to their antique range of bottles.

3-7 Davies Street, Mayfair, London W1K 3LD

Hedonism's extensive wine cellar

Credit: Hedonism Wines

World-class cocktails at Tayer + Elementary

With its Scandi-meets-industrial interior, minimalist eatery Elementary is proof that grab-and-go food can still be gourmet. The same goes for the diminutive Rudi Paparazzi cocktail. Combining amaro and Del Maguey Vida mezcal – another of London’s current spirit obsessions – it’s served as a shot but is bursting with so much flavour you are definitely going to want to sip slowly to really and savour it. After all, it’s been dreamed up by c-founders Monica Berg and Alex Kratena, who are two of the world’s most respected bartenders.

Just like the inventive drinks list, the menu here is short and succinct. It’s almost obligatory to order the famous Iberian pork katsu sandwich with panko breadcrumbs, raspberry jam, XO shallot sauce and shredded cabbage, which offers a great introduction to the Portuguese-Chinese-Japanese fusion food that’s served here.

For a more in-depth eating exploration, Tayer sits behind the striking concrete partition and serves a five-course set menu to diners at the ultra-modern kitchen counter. Bookings for this delicious experience open on the 1st of each month.

152 Old Street, Shoreditch, London EC1V 9BW

Tayer + Elementary Interior

Credit: Bernard Zeija

Sip classic Italian aperitivo at Lina Store

As the sister of Lina Delicatessen, which is also located in Soho, this pretty, pastel-green restaurant knows a thing or two about Italian amaro. In fact, it serves two classic cocktails featuring the spirit – an Americano made with artichoke-based amaro Cynar, white vermouth and soda, and a sour featuring Amaro CioCiaro. Hailing from Frosinone (known as ‘Ciociaro’ in the local dialect), this slightly sweeter amaro is made according to a secret recipe – look closely and you’ll see the woman on the charming vintage label is wearing the traditional sandals of this central Italian region.

Aside from the amaro, this place is all about plates of pasta made fresh every day by hand – from pici with porcini mushrooms to slow-cooked veal ragu pappardelle and ravioli parcels that are packed with minted courgette, parmesan cream and salted ricotta.

51 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 4EH

The irresistible spread at Lina Delicatessen

Credit: Lina Delicatessen

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