Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bitters in the City

This past week, I took advantage of my usual southward migration for the Thanksgiving (to CT, that is), to stop off in New York to do a little visiting of friends and places.  During this trip, I managed to stop in at Amor y Amargo, a relatively new experiment from the makers of the Bittermen's brand bitters and Ravi DeRossi, the mind behind a number of high end cocktail bars including the wonderful Death & Company, which conveniently enough is right down the street from Amor y Amargo down in the East Village.

Amor y Amargo is billed as a "bitters tasting room."  Rather than beer on tap, they have house-made sweet vermouth and pre-mixed Americano cocktails.  Behind the bar is an extensive collection of Italian amari and other kinds of potable bitters behind the bar, and of course the full array of Bittermen's brand, and select other cocktail bitters along the bar top.  Another thing that immediately caught my eye on the bar was the full array of the Bittermen's new liqueurs, which I had heard about but not yet seen in the retail scene in Boston (I was told they do have a distributor in MA now, however, so it should only be a matter of time).  Amor y Amargo's cocktail menu features a list of amaro/bitters focused original drinks, and bitters-focused variations on classics.  Many of the drinks feature one or more of the aftorementioned Bittermen's liqueurs, and/or their cocktail bitters.

After sampling a glass of their fine house vermouth, I inquired about the new liqueurs, and the bartender was kind enough to pour me a tasting of each of the liqueurs they had for the offering:

the Commonwealth Tonic Liqueur, as stated, a kind of tonic syrup turned liqueur; Amère Nouvelle a kind of citrus-oriented, Amer Picon like liqueur; Hiver Amer the Bittermen's limited edition cinnamon liqueur made for the winter season; Citron Sauvage a grapefruit liquer; and Amère Sauvage - Gentiane Américaine, gentian flavored liqueur.  I have to say, I found all of them enjoyable, but if I have to pick just one, the Tonic Liqueur really stood out for me.  It was a delicious and unique twist on a familiar taste and I could very much see myself reaching for it as an old and faithful friend alongside some sparkling water and gin.

As far as actual cocktails, I sampled the Eight Amaro Sazarac and the Autumn in Manhattan, both of which I enjoyed.  If it's not already apparent, however, you should really be in the mood for amaro-like flavor if you plan on tipping back some of the cocktails at Amor y Amargo.  The bar is stocked around, and the menu designed around their bitters focus, so don't expect to be able to order your run of standard mixed drinks and spirits (if you really are dying for something like that during your visit though, Death & Co. IS a short walk away, and could make a suitable follow-up).  I also took a nibble from Amor y Amargo's Spanish-influenced petit plate menu, specifically the Patatas Bravas, which were well prepared and quite tasty.

One other note worth pointing out about Amor y Amargo is that it also doubles as a general store for the Bittermen's brand bitters and other sundry cocktail tools and products.  Their website also mentions some classes to be taught at the bar sometime in the future, which also sounds like an interesting proposition.

If you're still not sold on the fact that this is a good spot to go if you are a cocktail geek, one other anecdote I can mention is that while at Amor y Amargo, I ran into my fellow Bostonian Jenn of the Nightcapped blog. Amusingly, the last time I ran into her was at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic when we were both attending a seminar on Italian Amari.  So if nothing else, I can at least tell you that the bloggers have definitely discovered where to get their amaro on, even those of us from 200 miles away!

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