Queen Bee Mixology

Amaro: Using Italy’s Bitter Liqueur in Cocktails

Amaro: Using Italy’s Bitter Liqueur in Cocktails

Today, I’m exploring a delightful but (in my humble opinion) underutilized cocktail ingredient: Amaro. Amaro is Italian for “bitter,” is a category of herbal liqueurs traditionally from Italy, though now produced worldwide. These liqueurs are made by macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark, and/or citrus in alcohol, then sweetening the mixture. The result is a deep, complex flavor profile that ranges from lightly bittersweet to intensely herbal, with each Amaro variety offering its own unique blend of flavors and degrees of sweetness.

In mixology, Amaro is not just an ingredient; it’s a bridge between the elements of a cocktail, offering balance, depth, and an element of surprise. Its versatility allows it to be a star player in a wide range of cocktails, from refreshing spritzes to robust, spirit-forward concoctions. The flavor profile of Amaro is as varied as its origins, with common notes including citrus, gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona. Some varieties lean towards a sweeter, more caramel-like taste, while others are markedly bitter, with herbal undertones that can include sage, mint, or rosemary.

So let’s take a look at some easy and delicious recipes that highlight Amaro’s versatility and charm. I’m sure once you try these, you’ll be just as much of an Amaro fan as I am! 

Blood Orange Old Fashioned

This twist on the classic Old Fashioned brings a vibrant citrus note to the forefront, thanks to the inclusion of blood orange liqueur. The Amaro adds a herbal complexity that complements the bourbon’s warmth, creating a cocktail that’s both familiar and refreshingly new.

  • 2 oz. — Bourbon
  • 0.5 oz. — Blood Orange Liqueur
  • 1 oz. — Amaro

What sets this recipe apart is the way the blood orange liqueur and Amaro meld with the bourbon, offering a delightful contrast to the traditional recipe’s simple syrup and bitters.

Red Berry Frosé

Dive into summer vibes with this frozen blend that’s perfect for beating the heat. The Red Berry Frosé combines the bubbly charm of sparkling rosé with the sweetness of vanilla and the tang of lemon, all while introducing the subtle bittersweet touch of Amaro Montenegro for an unforgettable finish.

  • 3 oz. — Sparkling Rosé
  • 0.5 oz. — Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 0.5 oz. — Vanilla Simple Syrup
  • 3 — Strawberries (cut in half)
  • Handful — Frozen Raspberries
  • 0.5 oz. — Amaro Montenegro
  • 1 oz. — Vodka
  • Garnish — Lemon Twist, Strawberries

This frosé stands out for its sophisticated blend of flavors, where the Amaro adds a nuanced depth that elevates the cocktail from simply refreshing to memorably exquisite.

Paper Plane

A modern classic, the Paper Plane is a balanced quartet of bourbon, Aperol, Amaro, and lemon juice. This cocktail is a testament to the harmony that can be achieved when bitter meets sweet, with a touch of acidity to round it all out.

  • 0.75 oz. — Bourbon
  • 0.75 oz. — Aperol
  • 0.75 oz. — Amaro
  • 0.75 oz. — Fresh Lemon Juice

The equal parts formula of the Paper Plane exemplifies the elegance of simplicity, with Amaro providing a herbaceous backbone that ties together the drink’s citrus and bitter elements.

Final Sips

With Amaro, each sip is a journey through a landscape of flavor, where each cocktail tells its own unique story. As we wrap up this exploration of Amaro in mixology, remember that these recipes are just the beginning. Amaro’s diverse flavor profile means the possibilities for creation are as vast as your imagination allows.

Stay tuned for more recipes and tips to elevate your home bartending game! 


Author Meet Kelly Sparks, the creative mastermind and cocktail influencer behind @QueenBeeMixology. While mixology may not be her day job, it is her passion. As the Founder and CEO of VMG Studios, a successful and award-winning creative agency and video production studio, Kelly brings her expertise in creativity to the world of cocktails. As a self-taught and dedicated do-it-yourselfer, Kelly makes the journey to amazing cocktails accessible to everyone. And when she’s not hard at work, you can find her sipping a delicious drink with her husband.

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