With the year the spritz is having in the U.S., you'd think that bottles of Prosecco and bright red and orange aperitifs would be the top Italian imports gracing home bars around the country. But, when it's chilly out and I'm still looking for a way to drink bubbly, I turn to other deeper, darker amari—bittersweet, herbal Italian liqueurs made with herbs and spices—for inspiration. (They're giving those aperitifs a run for their money.)
I'm talking the rich, syrupy, deeply red-brown digestifs that you might recall seeing show up on your parents', or grandparents', table post-dinner, the bottles sporting intricately detailed labels, bright colors, and names that were foreign and intriguing. Now that everything old is new again, I'll often enjoy amaro on its own—or maybe even in my dessert!—but I also like to shake it and stir it into cocktails when I've got all the trappings at home. The bitter, sweet, and spice of the liqueur make a lovely bedfellow for other spirits and wine as evidenced in drinks like the Safe Passage and Nardini Spritz.
In this Italian Sparkler—the festive cocktail I'll be drinking and serving all season long—gin adds body and flavor that vodka isn't able to. Shaken up with bitter amaro and a splash of lemon juice that lends pucker, then topped off with a proper dose of Prosecco that perks the whole thing up, it's fancy enough but just a little unusual around the edges.
You can scale the ingredients up and batch it pre-party, minus the Prosecco, if there's a truckload of folks coming over. Just shake a few drinks at a time as people filter in, but be ready to serve seconds: Your guests will want to drink this one all night long. There'll be hmms and huhs, but happily so, and guesses as to what's lending the bitter element. You don't have to give it away, though—it can be our secret.
- 1 ounce gin
- .5 ounces amaro (the more bitter, the better!)
- .5 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon simple syrup (optional)
- 3 ounces Prosecco, to top
- lemon peel, to garnish
And if you're looking for more ways to drink amaro in cocktails, or just a reason to break it out on it's own, read on:
We're partnering with Ruffino Wines to share recipes for food and drink throughout the year that'll get you living like an Italian (in spirit—although we can't promise you won't want to pick up and move there). See all their wines here.