Amaro Montenegro Review

Amari pretty darn big right now, and I’m a huge fan. Bittersweet, rich, soothing. Just the thing to sip after dinner on a cool fall evening. However, not all Amari are created equal. In fact, if you try a bunch, there’s a huge variety of flavors out there; from the intense, bitter, and herbal to the rich and sweet, there’s a world of flavor to explore.

One I’ve particularly fallen for is Amaro Montenegro. Made with a blend of sweet, spicy, and bitter botanicals, Montenegro has a unique taste among its amari peers. It’s dark and packs a bitter punch, sure, but it lighter bodied than some others, and packs a unique, fresh orange flavor that cuts through the heavier notes and keeps it sippable. In fact, this bittersweet dram finishes clean, bright, and somehow even manages to be refreshing, despite being in such a dark, bittersweet spirit. Amaro Montenegro is like the gruff, brooding guy that really just wants to be your friend.

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Tasting notes

Nose: Orange! Specifically, orange oil or essence, like what squirts out when you squeeze a piece of orange rind. This is followed up by rich, warm baking spices like cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. There’s some licorice in there too, along with a gentle hint of mint (far more subdued than what you’d find in Fernet Branca or Branca Menta, though). There are some light herbs in there as well – maybe some parsley and sage – but they’re soft.

Taste: Wow, this has a surprisingly bright flavor – something I don’t think I’ve experienced with other Amari. It’s also lighter-bodied than of its kin. The first notes that hit the tongue are the orange promised on the nose. There’s plenty of orange oil, but also a little sweet navel orange juice. This mingles with plenty of sweet, warm spices, with cinnamon and ginger being the dominant notes. These are joined by clove and cardamom toward the middle, as well as some soft, leafy herbs. There’s some bitterness in there toward the finish, but it comes across as a lingering orange tang, rather than a sharp bite.

I’m already someone who enjoys sipping amari, so I didn’t think twice about pouring a stiff glass of this neat, but Amaro Montenegro is balanced and gentle enough that I suspect even people who may not want to sip on other such spirits could enjoy this neat. I’m really looking forward to pouring myself a snifter of this to sip in my recliner on a snowy evening (Okay, do I officially sound like an old man now? 😉

Montenegro with a Twist - A Dram Good Drink

Amaro Montenegro is also quite refreshing to sip on the rocks with an orange twist, but it also works wonders in a range of cocktails, where it can have some surprising, exciting results. After some experimentation and brainstorming with the brilliant Alzuri at Spirit World, it’s my pleasure to present two Amaro Montenegro cocktails to help usher in fall. Both of these drinks play up the spiced orange flavor that readily comes through in Amaro Montenegro, which immediately makes me think of fall.

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The (Modified) Paper Plane

  • 1 oz High-rye bourbon
  • .5 oz Campari
  • .75 Amaro Montenegro
  • .75 Lemon juice
  • Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until thoroughly chilled.
  • Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of orange peel.

This is a variation on the original paper plane cocktail, which calls for Aperol and a mellower bourbon (I believe the original recipe recommends Elijah Craig). However, with some adjustments to the ratios, I think the more astringent Campari plays nicely with the citrusy notes from the Montenegro. Those same orange notes also work really well the spicy flavor of rye, hence the bourbon swap, too.

taste-of-autumn-ingredients-a-dram-good-drink

Taste of Autumn

  •  1.5oz Dark Rum (A funky blackstrap rum like Gosling’s is ideal)
  • 1oz Amaro Montenegro
  • .5oz White Vermouth (I used Cocchi Americano)
  • A few dashes of black walnut bitters
  • Combine the ingredients in a large mixing glass, fill with ice, and stir until well chilled.
  • Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of orange peel.

This drink is based on some experimentation that we did a few weeks back at Spirit World. The rum provides a nice rich space, reminiscent of what I’d find in spicy molasses cookies. The Amaro Montenegro of course contributes that rich, inviting spice, as well as its trademark bright orange flavor. Once again, this gives me that great taste of spiced orange that’s so prominent and inviting this time of year. The vermouth rounds things off in a pleasantly unexpected way. At first glance, a sweet vermouth seemed like a natural fit with this drink, but the heavy flavors and richer herbaceous notes in many sweet vermouths may have overpowered the relatively gentle Montenegro. Instead, a tart, vibrant white vermouth works well with the already bright notes from the amaro, while still adding a bit of extra herbal complexity. I’m quite happy with the end result on this one. I won’t be cocky enough to claim to have created this drink – I’m sure many people have already “invented” nearly the same cocktail – but I will happily keep making these throughout the season.

I’m looking forward to playing around with more cocktails with Amaro Montenegro – though it’s quite likely I’ll burn through the bulk of the bottle on my shelf just sipping it, pondering what I want to make with it next. 🙂

Questions of the Day: What’s your favorite amaro? Have you tried Amaro Montenegro?

Comments

  1. Josh says

    I have to make an admission here – When my post was almost finished, I lost most of it due to a technical issue. Of course, in the process of rewriting it, I decided to pour myself a drink. Not wanting to interrupt my muse, I worked with what I had literally at hand (my chair was next to the bar shelf) – I poured Old Granddad 114 and Amaro Montenegro into a glass over a couple of ice cubes in roughly a 4:1 ratio.

    I figured it would taste good, but I was pretty shocked at *just* how good a “lazy man’s old fashioned” it made! Montenegro substituted admirably for the sweetness of the demerara sugar I’d usually use, the aromatics of the angostura bitters, and (of course) the citrus oil from the orange peel I’d typically express over the glass.

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