The Napa bottle is a totally different kind of amaro.
If you’re a cocktail fan, odds are you’ve heard plenty about amari—that’s the plural of amaro, the Italian style of bitter herbal liqueurs. Recently, Americans have started to get into the game, creating their own amari. Some are very much based on Italian liqueurs; others forge their own path.
Lo-Fi from Napa, is one of the latter. Their Gentian Amaro is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. Made from a base of white wine and grape spirit, it’s got a rich, fruity element up front, cut through with cinchona bark and bitter root extracts. Starts off juicy, ends up earthy and bitter—it’s interesting enough to entice you into another sip, to experience it all again. (That’s probably the point.)
The brand, now available in Northern California and in select New York spots, recommends drinking the gentian amaro on the rocks or with soda, both of which are delicious—but let’s get a little more creative, shall we? Here are three cocktails to try with it.
Easy: Gentian Americano
This simple combo of gentian amaro, sweet vermouth, and soda is as refreshing as it is enticing, the complex flavors of the amaro and vermouth coming together in something novel and delicious.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1 ounce of gentian amaro, 1 ounce of sweet vermouth, and 3 ounces club soda. Give a quick stir and garnish with a big orange peel.
Intermediate: Gentian & Pineapple
The combination of gentian amaro and pineapple juice works very well—juicy, super-acidic pineapple makes an excellent backdrop for the amaro’s complex flavors. But we craved a little something stronger, so we added in some white rum, with a little simple syrup to balance out the extra booze, and lemon to add a fresh pop of brightness. Crushed ice was an obvious choice. It tastes almost like a tiki drink, but simpler and lower-proof.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces of gentian amaro, 1 ounce of white rum, 3/4 ounce pineapple juice, 1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice, and 1/2 ounce simple syrup. Shake until very well chilled, and strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice, preferably crushed ice. Garnish with a few artful pineapple wedges.
Advanced: Gentian Amaro Frozemonade
Before “frosé” was a summer staple, the good folks at Brooklyn’s Extra Fancy invented “Frozémonade,” a slushy frozen lemonade made with rosé: just as delicious as it sounds. We’ve had Frozémonade topped with gin, with rum, with Montenegro and Campari—but this gentian amaro might be the best topper, ever.
Instructions: In a blender with one cup of ice, combine 4 ounces of rosé, 1 ounce simple syrup, and 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice. Blend until smooth and slushy, then pour into a big glass. Top with 1 ounce (or more, if you like) of gentian amaro. Garnish with a mint sprig.