In case our, oh, half-dozen columns on Campari and Cynar and Averna and more haven’t tipped you off, we’re huge fans of amari. The huge class of Italian liqueurs share a few key traits: They’re balanced between bitter and sweet (though that balance ranges widely depending on the amaro), they’re made with an often-secret blend of herbs and spices that give each one a totally distinct, layered flavor and they’re often sipped before dinner, to stimulate the appetite, or after, to settle the stomach.
So where does Amaro Lucano fit in? It’s pleasantly rich and weighty to sip, a little caramel-y, with a complex spice somewhere between a concentrated cola and concentrated root beer. Tons of fun on its own, but perhaps even better in cocktails. Here are three favorites we’ve dreamed up.
Easy: Lucano and Ginger Beer
Some amari are perfect with soda, or tonic; for heavier Lucano, we like it with ginger beer to cut through that richness, while adding a little sweetness and a lot of sparkle.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1 1/2 of Amaro Lucano and 4 ounces of ginger beer. Garnish with some little lime triangles.
Intermediate: Lucano ‘Manhattan’
Full-bodied, caramel-y Amaro Lucano is an ideal match for full-bodied, rich dark rum. Stir ‘em together with a little sugar and bitters and you’ve got a smart, simple drink that tastes way more complex than the sum of its ingredients.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, stir together 2 ounces of dark rum (we’re using Ron Zacapa), 3/4 ounce Amaro Lucano, 1/4 demerara syrup (that’s demerara sugar dissolved in an equal part of hot water), and 1 dash Angostura bitters. Stir all that up until well-chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel and a brandied cherry (twisting the orange peel over the drink to spray its citrus oils all over).
Advanced: Lucano - Tequila Sour
While some cocktails highlight a given ingredient, others let it lurk in the background. The base of this drink is a juicy, margarita-like sour with tequila and lemon; add a little Amaro Lucano, though, and you’ve got another cool, elusive layer, a “what is that?” factor that gives this drink a little something extra.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces reposado tequila, 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice, 1/2 ounce of Amaro Lucano and 1/2 an ounce of agave syrup (agave nectar dissolved in an equal part of hot water). Shake all that up hard, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with lemon half-moons.