In March broVo’s rose geranium liqueur earned a bronze medal in the San Francisco Spirits Competition. At last month’s Beverly Hills World Spirits Competition broVo’s Douglas Fir liqueur snagged gold for “extraordinary taste.”
But broVo’s new line of seven amaros (or amari, to give it the proper Italian plural), have been wowing judges too. Each was crafted from a recipe contributed by a Seattle bartender. Amaro No. 4 (by Patrick Haight) won a silver medal at the San Francisco competition. In Beverly Hills, gold medals for “extraordinary taste” went to Amaro No.1 (by John Ueding) and Amaro No. 5 (by Sara Fisher), while Amaro No. 3 (by Sarah Wyan) took the bronze. The entire broVo Amaro line was awarded a bronze medal for packaging and design.
Amaro, in case you are wondering, is a bittersweet, aromatically complex Italian liqueur. In Italy people drink it straight, as a tonic or digestivo. In this country it is beloved by craft bartenders who mix them into cocktails. There are hundreds of amaros, which traditionally are made by injecting grape brandy with various flavorings, but broVo’s line started with rhubarb liqueur gone wrong.
Voelsgen and Brophy thought rhubarb would be a beautiful addition to their single-note line of botanical liqueurs, which include ginger, lavender and lemon balm, in addition to Douglas fir and rose geranium. Test batches turned out well, so they invested in a ton of rhubarb—a literal ton—to make a large batch. The result was just mediocre, they thought. All the bartenders who tasted it agreed.
“We had $25,000 of rhubarb liqueur sitting in a tank that no one wanted,” Voelsgen recalls. In desperation, they Googled “rhubarb liqueur:” Ramazzotti and Zucca came up, two kinds of amaro.
The women knew nothing about amaro but did their homework by talking to bartenders they’d come to know and respect. “We’d ask them which amaros they liked and they would pick up their favorite bottles and cradle them like babies,” says Voelsgen.
They decided to harness that passion and those palates by asking seven Seattle bartenders to invent an amaro recipe. To their surprise, all seven said yes, and each came up with something different.
The collaboration proved so rewarding that broVo tapped bartenders from Chicago and San Francisco, as well as Seattle, to create their second amaro array, coming in October. “This project has centered us as a distiller,” says Voelsgen. “We want to be the group that works with bartenders to make new and interesting products.”
Packaged in tall, rectangular bottles that are hand-labeled and bear a quote from each bartender, the amaros are produced in limited, numbered editions. They are sold mainly to bars but consumers can look for them at Capco Beverage in West Seattle and at Wine World on N.E 45th Street.
Oh, and Voelsgen and Brophy finally did come up with a sixth flavor for their single-note line: spearmint. Ask for it from your favorite bartender.