Book Review: Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs

Usually when I fall in love with a book it’s very easy to write a review about it.  In the case of Amaro by Brad Thomas Parsons the opposite was true.  This book introduced me to a new world of liqueurs, a collection of bittersweet, herbal liqueurs that I had never experienced before.

The quick description of this book is a complete exploration of the world of Amari from their history, producers, cocktail recipes, recipes for making your own amari and some recipes for dishes that utilize different types of amaro in them.  Most readers will purchase the book for the recipes (the price is worth it for this alone) but historical and taxonomic portions of the book are just as worthwhile.
Amaro begins by attempting to “demystify” the bitter liquid.  It delves into its history, common composition and difference between it and cocktail bitters.  It’s followed by a discussion of the taxonomy of amaro and goes into detail about the difficulties of classifying them.  Amari seem almost mythical as they are each so different and each only created in one place.  The next section briefly talks about some bars known for their selection of amari and cocktails featuring them.  Many of the bars I have dreamed about visiting but since reading the book I have noticed that many local bars and restaurants are serving drinks featuring different amaro as well.
The book continues its taxonomic journey and documents many producers of amaro and classifies them in five different groups.  These groups include apertivo bitters, amaro, fernet, a bittersweet world and American made amaro.  Each section details the producer, provides a paragraph of history, known ingredients, abv and tasting notes on their amaro.  When deciding on which to purchase I used this together with the recipe section to decide which drink might suit my tastes best (turns out they all do).
The largest section of the book is the collection of cocktail recipes.  The recipes range from spritzes, to classics, to modern amaro cocktails.  Each recipe includes an introductory paragraph an ingredient list and short instructions on how to make it.  The ingredients do not provide specific brands of alcohol for the non amaro which may be a relief for some and a disappointment for others.  Most recipes also include a photo of the finished drink.  The photos are beautiful, as is the multitude of glassware, and the drinks all look mouthwateringly delicious.  
As I made my way through recipes I found myself falling in love with more and more types of amaro.  I started with the apertivo bitter Campari, worked my way towards Averna and eventually landed on Fernet Branca.  The only time the book let me down is when I had a recipe picked out but could not find the amaro for sale in my neighborhood.  Now I keep my eyes open when travelling around Los Angeles and snag a bottle when I see them, then figure out what to make with it later.
The short essays sprinkled throughout the book are enlightening and fun reads.  I actually read most of them while randomly picking the book up off my bar.  These essays cover topics such as the Nonino family in Italy and the small bitter bottles of Underberg.
The portions of the book that I have not really had a chance to explore are the recipes for DIY amaro and the food recipes.  Making my own amaro seems really interesting but the amount of commercially produced amaro that I’ve yet to taste has been keeping me busy.  The recipes all look like they are delicious and they have inspired me to add Fernet Branca to my own food concoctions.
This book is my favorite cocktail book at the moment, it is inspiring, the cocktail recipes are easily replicated at home and the amount of expertly curated information that it packs in is amazing.  I would recommend this book to bartenders, home bartenders and to those who like to read about food and beverage and their historical context.  My ultimate recommendation is that I have gifted copies of this book to my closest friends after feeling guilty for receiving mine for free.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


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