In the war between darkly colored, bitterly flavored Italian digestivis, two contenders continue to duke it out. Fernet Branca, preferred by bartenders on the West Coast (especially San Francisco,) possesses an enticing underlying menthol flavor along with the bitterness. Averna Amaro is a tad more mellow, with caramel notes.
A few months ago, I went out to dinner at The Source with some winery folks from Washington State. After a huge dinner of Scott Drewno's creations, we all wanted a little elixir. It was interesting that half of the table selected a shot of Fernet, while the other half opted for Amaro.
I have to admit that I love them both, and both have different applications in cocktails. I recently heard about a recipe for an Amaro Sour. It piqued my interest because it only includes a few ingredients (all of which I have on my bar--including house soaked brandied cherries), and combines bitter, ginny and floral notes.
It's a pretty cool drink. The melding of the flirty elderflower with the more brooding Amaro is great for this transitional time of year, when you aren't sure whether to reach for a sweatshirt or a t-shirt, or grab the bottle of gin or Bourbon from the shelf:
Amaro Sour Courtesy of Phil Pepperdine, The Cooper Spirits Company
1 oz. Averna Amaro 1 oz. Plymouth Gin 1 oz. St. Germain 3/4 oz. lemon juice 2 Brandied cherries
Muddle cherries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients. Fill shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with another cherry, if desired.