When it comes to holiday cheer, make mine a Manhattan. The classic recipe calls for rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters, but nowadays variations abound: bourbon instead of rye, Carpano Antica in place of vermouth, or a dash of orange bitters to call out the spicy notes of the rye. Lately I’ve been experimenting with amaro. Replacing some of the sweet vermouth with that bitter, herbaceous liqueur adds rich complexity to the drink.
These mixology experiments were inspired after sampling the wide range of amaros produced locally by broVo Spirits, the Woodinville distillery I profile this Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine. BroVo conspires with bartenders to develop their amaros. They started the project with seven Seattle area bartenders, then branched out to other cities.
Micah Melton is among broVo’s collaborators. He recently succeeded famed barman Charles Joly as beverage director at Chicago’s The Aviary, winner of the 2013 James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program.
“Micah gave us a recipe for amaro,” says broVo head honcho Mhairi Voelsgen. “We made the first bucket and it was phenomenal. That’s rare. Usually it’s a giant train wreck that gets poured down the drain.”
Melton’s recipe mingles cherry, apricot, orange, walnut, cinnamon, vanilla and peppercorn. It also called for gentian, which adds a bitter note. “I tasted it before and after we added the gentian. It was good both ways, but phenomenal without,” says Voelsgen. “We thought maybe this would be a better liqueur than an amaro.”
Melton agreed and Boomerang was born. The first batch, limited to Chicago, was in high demand. Voelsgen says a few cases are about to be released here, and soon in London. Other broVo products available here in bars and retail stores include their award-winning Amaros #1 and #4, created by Seattle bartenders John Euding and Patrick Haight respectively.
Micah Melton uses Amaro #4 in a spritzy tequila cocktail, whose name, Seachide, nods to Seattle and Chicago. Jayson Cottam of The Back Door at Roxy’s in Fremont mixes Amaro #1 with Ballard’s own barrel-aged Big Gin to make The Bon Marche. Their recipes are below. Cheers to the holidays!
Seachide by Micah Melton, The Aviary
1 ½ ounces resposado tequila
1 ½ ounces broVo Amaro #4
¾ ounce mango syrup (mix 1-1 sugar to bottled mango juice)
¾ ounce lime juice
2 dashes of orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake lightly. Pour into a Collins glass with fresh ice and top with soda water.
The Bon Marche by Jayson Cottam, The Back Door at Roxy’s, Fremont
1 ½ ounces Barrel Aged Big Gin (from Ballard’s Captive Spirits Distilling)
¾ ounce broVo Amaro # 1
¾ ounce Lillet Blanc
2 dashes peach bitters
Combine all ingredients over ice. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a grapefruit peel.