Why Sfumato Deserves a Place on Your Bar Cart
The rich, smoky amaro is delicious on its own as an after-dinner digestif—but it's also fantastic in these winter cocktails.
“Sfumato Rabarbaro Amaro”: It’s a mouthful. But the translation — “smoky rhubarb amaro” — tells you exactly what’s inside. Whereas some amari (bitter Italian liqueurs) are light and dynamic, or aggressively bitter, Sfumato follows its own path: rich and smoky, with a woodsy, earthy quality, but with a bright, juicy character that keeps it lively and extremely drinkable.
As with many amari, it’s delicious on its own as an after-dinner digestif. But its nuanced, smoky flavor is a joy to play around with in cocktails — with whiskey and tequila showing a particular affinity for it. Here are three simple winter drinks to really show off Sfumato.
The smokiness of Sfumato makes for an extremely appealing hot toddy, blending nicely with all the classic accoutrements: honey, lemon, spice. Bourbon serves as a strong, warming backbone.
Instructions: Add an ounce of bourbon, an ounce of Sfumato, and 1 teaspoon of honey to a heat-safe glass. Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Heat water to a near-boil and pour two ounces into glass; stir until honey is dissolved. Stud a lemon wedge with a few cloves, squeeze it in, and leave in the glass. Add a cinnamon stick, a few allspice berries, and one piece of star anise.
Intermediate: Sfumato & Repo
Great tequila has all kinds of grassy, vegetal notes, and Sfumato’s smoky-woodsy quality is a perfect match. Stirred together, and balanced with a bit of sweet vermouth, they create a drink with the profile of a Manhattan but a complex, faintly smoky character all its own.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine two ounces of reposado tequila, 1/2 ounce Sfumato, and 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth. Add one dash of Angostura bitters. Stir until well-chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a big twist of lime peel.
Advanced: Sfumato & Rye
Plenty of Scotches are smoky; American whiskeys are generally not. But add a dose of Sfumato to American rye and it almost echoes the taste of a Scotch, in addition to the myriad other flavors it contributes. Lemon juice, orange bitters, and grapefruit peel lighten the whole thing up. Sultry enough for a nightcap, bright and easy enough to drink before dinner.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces of 100-proof rye (we like Rittenhouse), 3/4 ounce of Sfumato, 1/4 ounce of lemon juice, 1/4 ounce of simple syrup, and 2 dashes of orange bitters. Shake until very well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Add 1/2 ounce of club soda and give a quick stir. Garnish with a grapefruit peel, squeezed over the top to release its citrus oils.