You could be forgiven for thinking that Cardamaro was a cardamom amaro. (Confession… we’re the experts here, and we thought so until quite recently.) I mean, if you were naming Italian liqueurs, that’s what Cardamaro would mean, right?
But the truth is something more interesting. Cardamaro is a wine-based aperitif, infused with cardoon and blessed thistle (two artichoke relatives), then aged in oak. The result has the richness and weight of sweet vermouth, and only a gentle herbal bitterness. It really tastes like a lighter, more drinkable version of artichoke-based Cynar—and that’s a delicious thing indeed.
We’re fans of sipping Cardamaro straight or on the rocks, but it might be even better incorporated into cocktails. Here are three to try.
We love grapefruit as a match for just about anything bittersweet, and Cardamaro is no exception. Add some juice and soda and you’ve got a super-sippable tall drink that’s way more complex than its ingredient list might indicate.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1.5 ounces of Cardamaro, 2 ounces of fresh grapefruit juice, and 2 ounces of club soda. Give a quick stir and garnish with a grapefruit slice.
Intermediate: Carda-quila Manhattan
A little vegetal, but slightly mellowed — that describes Cardamaro. But those are characteristics we associate with reposado (slightly aged) tequila, too. Stir them together in a Manhattan-style cocktail and you’ve got a drink that’s super-smooth and just weighty enough for winter.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine 1.5 ounces of reposado tequila, 1.5 ounces of Cardamaro, and 1/4 ounce of agave syrup (that’s just agave you buy from the store, cut with an equal amount of hot water). Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Stir all that up until well-chilled, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit and/or a brandied cherry.
Advanced: Carda-rye Sour
The spiciness of rye whiskey is an ideal match for Cardamaro, so putting them together with lemon and sugar results in a pretty irresistible sour. Since Cardamaro is quite low-proof, we’re pairing it with a higher-proof rye like Wild Turkey 101; look for that bottle, or another one that’s 100-proof or thereabouts.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1.5 ounces of high-proof rye, 1 ounce of Cardamaro, 3/4 ounce of lemon juice, and 1/2 ounce of simple syrup. Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Shake all that up well, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Squeeze in a lemon wedge, and leave that in the drink as a garnish.