By Carey Jones and John D. McCarthy
Updated March 25, 2014
© Carey Jones

These days in the cocktail world, there’s nothing bigger than amaro. Ever tasted Campari in a Negroni, tried ruby-red Aperol in a spritz or seen bartenders slam shots of Fernet? All three are forms of Italian amari, beloved for their intriguing, multifaceted levels of bitterness and sweetness, herbs and botanicals.

Each amaro has a distinct character, which makes it so much fun to play with at the bar. If you’re looking for something dark, complex and accessible to start with, we’d suggest Amaro Montenegro. It’s the most popular amaro in Italy for a reason. Its strong orange flavor makes it appealing all on its own, and a natural fit for a variety of cocktails. (And its quirky, squat bottle looks pretty awesome on your home bar.) Here are three ways to use it, from a 10-second, two-ingredient refresher to an impressive muddled grapefruit-jalapeño concoction.

Easy: Montenegro Spritz

A take on the classic Aperol spritz, this version makes a perfect brunch-time refresher or a predinner cocktail. Bonus points: It just takes two ingredients, and it’s easy to pour for a crowd.

Instructions: Pour one ounce of Montenegro into a wine glass or Champagne flute. Add four ounces of sparkling wine (Prosecco or cava both work well here). Garnish with an orange slice. (Drink, and repeat.)

Intermediate: Montenegrita

Lots of margs use Cointreau or Triple Sec to give a little orangey flavor. Montenegro does the same, but with an added bitter-herbal complexity that goes well with the spicy elements in this recipe.

Instructions: Muddle three slices of jalapeño (with the seeds) in a cocktail shaker. Add a half-ounce of grapefruit juice, a half-ounce of lime juice, two ounces of reposado tequila (that’s the slightly aged kind), and an ounce of Montenegro. Add ice and shake thoroughly. Strain over fresh ice and garnish with a slice of jalapeño and a grapefruit wedge.

Advanced: Montenegro Sour

Fan of bourbon? We are, too. Whiskey and citrus are a classic pairing, and Montenegro’s orange flavor means it fits right in there as well.

Instructions: Make a quick honey syrup—that’s just equal parts honey and hot water, stirred until the honey dissolves (so it can shake up with the other ingredients). Add one ounce of Montenegro, an ounce and a half of bourbon, a half-ounce of honey syrup, one egg white and a dash of Angostura bitters to a cocktail shaker. Shake it up without ice—this is called a “dry shake,” to fluff up the egg white—then add ice and shake again. Strain over fresh ice.

Extra credit: Really looking to up your mixology cred? Add an orange foam float. After you strain out the cocktail and dump out all of the ice, there’ll be a little froth still clinging to the sides of the shaker. Dash in a few drops of orange bitters, pour a teeny bit of club soda down the side to capture that froth, and swirl that around—presto, an orange foam. Carefully spoon it atop your cocktail for an especially elegant presentation.

Follow writer and cocktailian Carey Jones on Twitter @careyjones and NYC mixologist John McCarthy at @johnnydmac, and share your own favorite cocktails using #FWx @foodandwine.