Your resolutions may or may not have included “Drink less.” (Hell, your resolution could be to drink more—no judgement.)
But odds are, everyone could all use a break from rich eggnog, sugary holiday party punches, and Champagne by the bottle. Without going all health-nut on you, January is a sensible enough time for cocktails with a little less cream, sugar, and high proof liquor.
So for maximum flavor with reasonably low levels of booze, we turn to our favorite Italian liqueur, the amaro. (You might be more familiar with individual bottles: Campari and Aperol are just two.) Amari tend to be bittersweet and have layers of nuanced flavor — but with some exceptions, they’re below the strength of staple spirits like vodka or bourbon.
That means you can create impressive, intricate cocktails while keeping the booze in check. Here are three we’re especially fond of. (The fact that they’re all so easy is one more vote in their favor.)
Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin are the triad that makes up the Negroni—one of the greatest cocktails of all time. But it’s not exactly a light drink. For something lower-proof, go with its cousin the Americano, which subtracts the gin and adds soda water. Easy-drinking and super refreshing.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce of sweet vermouth, and 4 ounces of club soda. (Some recipes use less soda; we like four full ounces, but feel free to try with less.) Garnish with an orange wedge.
Cynar & Grapefruit
Grapefruit pairs well with bitter liqueurs, so it’s always our favorite match for super-bitter Cynar. Despite being a flavor powerhouse, Cynar is only 17% ABV, so it’s an ideal pick for low-proof cocktails that don’t taste wimpy.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 ounce Cynar and 2 ounces of fresh grapefruit juice. Give that a shake, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice, and top with 2 ounces of club soda. Garnish with a grapefruit half-moon.
Montenegro and Tonic
How did it take us so long to realize that Montenegro is awesome with tonic water? Both are a little bitter and a little sweet, and Montenegro’s orange flavor shines through beautifully. More novel than a G&T, and less boozy too.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1 ounce Montenegro and 4 ounces of tonic. Garnish with an expressed lemon wedge.