If we had to pick just one amaro, it would be Montenegro.

By Carey Jones and John D. McCarthy
Updated June 26, 2017
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Credit: Carey Jones

We are unabashed amaro fans—from bitter Fernet to dark, earthy Cynar to lively Nonino, we’ve never met an Italian bitter liqueur we haven’t loved. Each so distinct from the others, each from its own corner of Italy, each one of these bottles has decades of history—some made according to the same (often-secret) recipes for a century or more.

But if we had to pick just one delicious, all-occasion, easy-to-love amaro, it’d have to be Montenegro. Made in Bologna since 1885, Montenegro is the best-selling amaro in Italy (which really says something). Beautifully balanced with more than 40 botanicals, it’s rich on the tongue but not too heavy, with strong flavors of orange and vanilla, just sweet enough to balance its bitter elements.

As an after-dinner digestif, it’s an unimpeachable choice. But Montenegro (or “Monte,” pronounced “Monty,” if you want to be a cool kid) is a dream to mix with. From tequila to rum to gin, we’ve yet to find a spirit it can’t make friends with. Here are three Monte drinks to try out this summer. We promise you’ll sail through a bottle in no time flat.

Try it: Amaro Montenegro, $38 at reservebar.com

Easy: The Malagueña

Credit: Carey Jones

The union of Montenegro and dark rum yields a cocktail something like a summer Manhattan—strong and stirred, but brighter and more dynamic than the classic. You still appreciate all of Montenegro’s varied bitter elements, with rum as a mellow, pleasant anchor. A little too easy to drink.

Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, stir together an ounce of good dark rum (we’re using Mount Gay Black Barrel), an ounce of Montenegro Amaro, 1/4 ounce of agave syrup (that’s agave nectar dissolved in an equal part of hot water), a dash of orange bitters, and three dashes of Angostura. Stir until very well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze a thick orange peel over the glass to release its citrus oils, and add as a garnish.

Intermediate: Montenegro Paloma

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Amaro and tequila? It works—particularly with slightly aged reposado tequila, which has a bit more weight to it than a standard silver. With grapefruit and soda, it’s both bitter and refreshing, just like an aperitif should be.

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half of reposado tequila, 3/4 ounce of Montenegro Amaro, 1/4 ounce of agave syrup (that’s agave nectar dissolved in an equal part of hot water), and an ounce of grapefruit juice. Shake all that up, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Top with half an ounce of club soda, and garnish with a few grapefruit half-moons.

Advanced: Montenegro 75

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The complex botanicals of Montenegro are a natural match for gin, which is why we knew it’d be perfect in a French 75; add lemon juice and sparkling wine, and you’ve got a lively summer cocktail made even more sophisticated thanks to the amaro. A perfect pre-dinner aperitif.

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine one ounce of gin (use a classic London Dry like Beefeater), 3/4 ounce of Montenegro Amaro, half an ounce of fresh lemon juice, and half an ounce of of simple syrup. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a tall glass or large wine glass with fresh ice, then top with an ounce of sparkling wine. Garnish with a few lemon wheels.