secret is out - Amaro Montenegro is the bartender’s secret weapon; and they are
finding a place for it in everything- from re-imagined classics to today's
cocktail innovations. With versatile notes that have come together in
perfect harmony since 1885 Amaro Montenegro fits perfectly into sours and dark
and bitter stirred cocktails all over -- in fancy cocktail bars, hotel bars,
and behind the bar of restaurants.
get an appealing refresh when Amaro Montenegro stands in for expected
ingredients in classic recipes like the Manhattan, Negroni and other favorites.
Proving, once again, that a spirit that’s been around since 1885 is not just
the booze world’s version of Old Faithful, but also exceptionally nimble in
giving the classics an edge and additional appeal.
member Chris Lowder, one of Food & Wine Magazine’s 10 Mixologists To Watch
2015, is thrilled to see this happening all over. Having worked with Amaro
Montenegro for a while now he understands just how flexible this amaro can be,
but finds it even more exciting when he discovers that fellow bartenders, like
Logan Ronkainen of Il Mulino Trattoria, are slipping it into drinks left and
right in an effort to share their love for amaro with an enthusiastic drinking
Lowder spent some time talking with ShakeStir about his
enthusiasm for Amaro Montenegro and the role it plays in modernizing the
SS: How do you see amaro, and
specifically Amaro Montenegro, being used?
CL: Amaro Montenegro is a great gateway into the world of amaro
as it is so approachable and delicious. It’s a little floral and it is
very complex and beautifully balanced. So, when someone sees that they are
interested in exploring this category I think Amaro Montenegro is a good place
to start. It’s showing up in a variety of environments. The brand has
great versatility so there are all sorts of ways to use it and introduce people
to it, and the category. I definitely would say that any restaurant should
have it as part of their offering. Any place that is food focused is a perfect
fit; these liquors and bitters are intended to make you digest your
food. It helps you digest and it helps you be hungry and it is perfect on
the rocks with a twist, or neat, before a meal and after a meal. It truly
is a necessary step in a complete dining experience.
SS: Classic cocktails, like
Manhattans, are definitely an iconic part of pre-dining culture. Are you
leaning on Amaro Montenegro for your original creations and the classics where
amaro is called for in the recipe?
CL: This is the great thing – Amaro Montenegro works in
both. The fact is that people want original cocktails and bartenders want
to make them. Classics are delicious, but people always like to try new
things. In the cannon of classic cocktails the basic combinations have
already been explored – some sort of acid, spirit, and sweetener shaken or
spirits, vermouth and stirred. So, one way to make a new drink is to make
a syrup or infusion out of something unusual – like a hops syrup, or
chamomile. But with these you may have problems with consistency, keeping
it fresh, and inventory. Another way to get at it is to accent your
cocktail with an amaro that already has the flavor built in. You get a
little sweetness to round out and balance the drink and it’s an easy thing to
reach for when you want to put a finishing touch on an original drink.
SS: So, no matter how you
slice it, bartenders can count on Amaro Montenegro?
CL: You know, it’s been around since 1885, so it must work. As
they used to say, “100 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong.” There’s a bunch
of whiskeys that have the same heritage and it’s the same idea with Amaro
Montenegro; if the product has stood the test of time…
SS: Time doesn’t lie, does it?
CL: No, it doesn’t. A lot of people are under the impression
that cocktails are a new thing. It’s because of the boom of cocktail bars we’ve
seen in the last 10-15 years. What they may not understand is that
cocktails are the original American contribution to the global culinary
scene. Americans created cocktails. We invented the Mint Julep and
the Old Fashioned, but before those inventions people would have thought you
were crazy to mix mint and bourbon and sugar. We’re continuing this
heritage of creation, of innovation and at the same time we’re seeing this wonderful
resurgence of a culture that understands it is okay to have some amaro before
or after a meal, enjoy a cocktail after your workday and have a responsible
evening and still have a good day the next day. Healthy drinking culture
has been demonized and sent off track in the 1920s and it has taken us all this
time to understand flavors are delicious and we don’t have to drink thoughtless
drinks. We can spend our time and energy and buy something like Amaro
Montenegro and sip it and talk and have this wonderful experience with our
friends and family.
SS: When you and your
bartender family talk about reimagining classic cocktail recipes what
ingredient or sorts of ingredients (e.g. Vermouth, etc.) often get replaced by
CL: Amaro Montenegro brings everything to the party. It brings
delicious flavors of bitter cherry, orange, and cucumber. You get bitterness,
sweetness, complexity, and a ton of delicious citrus. That means that Amaro
Montenegro can take the place of vermouth, sugar, spirit, sherry, you name
it. It’s just so versatile.
SS: Versatility is exciting,
but are there specific cocktails you can think of where swapping in Amaro
Montenegro is a great idea?
CL: Amaro Montenegro is complex and wonderfully aromatic. I
think it works best in place of vermouths, especially in stirred cocktails. For
classics, I especially love it with American whiskey. It makes a killer
SS: Rumor has it that
bartenders everywhere are playing with their Negronis. What is it about
this particular drink that makes it ripe for Amaro Montenegro replacement?
CL: At its most basic level, a Negroni is just gin, fortified
wine, and bitter liqueur. Substitute one gin for another, or one fortified wine
for another, and you have a radically different drink. Amaro Montenegro is soft
and approachable, and has a citrusy, vegetal quality that blends seamlessly
into gin. Put all three together, and you have a real crowd pleaser.
SS: You’ve been pleasing the
crowds swarming the bar at The Nomad with your drink The Black Spot. Tell us
about your inspiration for this recipe.
CL: The Black Spot is a variation of the classic cocktail Corn
& Oil. I wrote this drink while tasting Amaro Montenegro and realizing how
well its citrus flavors cut through and balanced the molasses flavors of
blackstrap rum. I put two together with Falernum and limes, and the result was
SS: That drink sounds
amazing! No wonder it is keeping guests ordering more. But how is it for
your bottom line?
CL: Amaro Montenegro can be a simple cocktail by itself or an
ingredient. Either way, you have a responsibility to your guests and to your
bar. For me, as I manage a high volume bar like The Nomad, having a bottle
of Amaro Montenegro is very convenient. We make a lot of cocktails and
instead of trying to make a house-made ingredient for each of them it’s better
and more consistent and more responsible to use a product like Amaro Montenegro
to pull out that flavor. You can spend a lot of time and money doing
R&D for syrups and infusions that may or may not work or you may not be
able to make consistently. It’s more responsible to the bar to use the
amaro because you aren’t spending money on the R&D and you don’t have to
pay someone coming in to make the syrups. And your guests know that the
drink will taste the same every time they come in to get it. So, you kind
of win twice.
SS: Is there anything
else you'd like to share about winning with Amaro Montenegro and how it plays
so nicely in classic cocktails with a twist (twist as in unique spin, not citrus
CL: Amaro Montenegro is like the gateway drug for complex
cocktails. It is soft, approachable, and delicious, and gives you a whole
bouquet of delicious flavors to work with. Because it’s so versatile, anyone
bartending at home can just substitute it for one ingredient or another and
reinvent delicious classics. Experimenting your friends is so much fun, and
everyone wins with delicious drinks.
for a new “Monte Takes On” video every other Monday: https://www.facebook.com/AmaroMontenegroUSA
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