Amaro amore: Amaro Montenegro

Forget Negronis and Aperol Spritzes. The first time I really came on board with bitter liqueurs was with Amaro Montenegro. Having tried and disliked Campari several times and then been put off amari completely with the horribly medicinal Fernet Branca, the Montenegro was the first time I tasted potential to like this entire classification of liqueur.

Of course, it's the Montenegro's bittersweet flavour, with its vanilla and caramel notes that make it so accessible as an amaro, and proved to be a gateway for me into other digestivos from which I have never returned.

Ready for a history lesson? Amaro Montenegro was created in 1885 by the Bolognese distiller Stanislao Cobianchi, also known as a “rebel genius”, who went against his family wishes of a career in the church to travel the world, experiencing new cultures, ideas and ingredients. On his return, Stanislao experimented with countless ingredients and finally determined the ultimate blend of 40 botanicals to create his amaro liqueur.

One final element added to the liqueur is the 'Premio', which is the result of the meticulous micro-distillation of five botanicals and is the final and fundamental ingredient of the secret recipe. The result is a unique and authentic liquid; amber in colour with a complex aroma and pleasantly balanced between sweet and bitter.

I have always thought very fondly of the product, but then two news stories around it happened at the same time, which gives me an excuse to write about it here.

Firstly, Amaro Montenegro has joined the Mangrove Global portfolio, alongside Aperitivo Select and Vecchia Romagna brandy. The move signals a push to build the brand in UK bars and retail sectors, which is a huge boost for those like me who would love to see more versatility among the slim-to-non-existant offerings of bitter liqueurs.

Showcasing its versatility will be a key strategy, apparently, with a focus on serving Amaro Montenegro neat as a digestivo, with tonic as an aperitvo and as an ingredient in cocktails, such as a Montenegroni. Spoiler alert: I have made this one below.

That's not all though. On Monday, 24th September, the UK finals of the Amaro Montenegro Vero Bartender Competition took place, and Aleksandra Jaworska of Bullard & Worth, Edinburgh won. She will go on to represent the UK in the world finals which take place in November in Bologna.

SUCH concentration.

Aleksandra's winning cocktail is named the Aperitivo Francescano, and it combines 40ml Amaro Montenegro with 20ml of an amazing-sounding Montelobos Mezcal infused with smoked figs, as well as 5ml Port of Leith oloroso sherry and 2 drops Fig solution. That's not all, as a garnish, she prepared a side dish of Italian mortadella with a sprinkle of dehydrated figs and salt

I'm not nearly going to attempt anything near that sophisticated, however I really do love the Amaro Montenego, so here are a few recipes that you might want to try at home, which don't involve you also have to prepare a side dish.


1oz East London Liquor Company Batch 2 Gin
1oz Amaro Montenegro
1oz Campari

Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lemon peel.
This might seem like an obvious drink to make, but surprisingly this Negroni riff swaps the Montenegro in, not for the Campari, but for the Sweet Vermouth, allowing the two bitter liqueurs to play off each other and round off the gin without any over sweetness.


1 Lemon wedge
1.5oz Bacardi Ocho Anos Gran Reserva Rum
0.5oz Amaro Montenegro
0.5oz Kahlua
0.5oz Cloudy Pineapple Juice

Method: Muddle the lemon wedgein the bottom of the shaker, add the other ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a rocks glass over more ice and garnish with more lemon.
I might not have remade Aleksandra's winning drink, but here's the winner of the Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition, created by Moe Isaza of Pammy's in Boston. It's such a great blend of ingredients that you wouldn't usually put together, with the aged rum cutting through all of it.

Queen's Steeple

45ml Amaro Montenegro
25ml Cynar
15ml Italicus
3 drops of Cardamom Bitters

Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with orange peel.
Now we're on to the serious hard stuff. This is bitter meets bitter alongside herbal and then with more bitters to finish. It's a powerfully strong drink, but a must-try those that are well-versed in the world of amari.

Tags: Amaro Montenergo, Amaro, Bitter Liqueur