The topic for this month is Amaro, which refers to the bitter liqueurs usually drunk as an after-meal digestive, either alone (neat or on the rocks) or in some kind of mixed drink or cocktail. They tend to all share certain characteristics — drinking bitters are generally made of alcohol with any number of herbs, plus sugar and some kind of coloring. The word “amaro” means bitter in Italian, and although the more famous drinking bitters tend to come from Italy our amaro theme this month is most certainly not limited to that country. Amaro, amer, amargo, what have you. Italy, Spain, France, America, Serbia, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland … wherever somebody drinks a bitter liqueur, that’s a source for your drink this month.
As a Pacific Northwest bartender it’s in my union contract that I must love Fernet-Branca, but for this MxMo I’m featuring Branca Menta, Fernet’s minty cousin. It’s sweeter than Fernet, but with the same intense medicinal taste and a sharp mint flavor and aroma.
This month’s cocktail, a simple mix of amaro and hot chocolate, is not at all seasonal for a day when even Portland is 80 degrees and sunny. So forget seasonality and make it anyway, save the recipe for next winter, or consider this a special post dedicated to readers in the southern hemisphere (Hi, Ellie!). Here’s what you need for Menta e Cioccolato:
1-1.5 oz Branca Menta
8 oz hot chocolate
Choose a quality chocolate that’s not too sweet. Heat with milk and pour into a warm mug with Branca Menta to taste. I usually make it just like that at home, but adorn with whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate as in the photo above for extra credit.
The idea for this drink came from enjoying hot chocolate with green Chartreuse, a delicious combination Lance Mayhew introduced me to during Portland’s great snow storm of ’08. That got me thinking about what other liqueurs would go well with hot chocolate. Branca Menta fit the bill perfectly and these two drinks were in frequent rotation at my apartment during the cold winter months.
Previously: Fernet-Branca appeared in my February MxMo cocktail, the Horatio.