Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Amaro roundup

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My month of drinking amaro (Duncan was right: I should use the singular for consistency) certainly had its ups and downs. As hard as I try, I can't develop a taste for Fernet Branca, and I think the Argentine approach (mixed with Coke) is if anything even more palate-searing than having it straight. Cynar may taste nothing like the artichokes from which it is made, and one should be thankful for that, but it is still powerfully astringent and unapproachable for a neophyte. But they have nothing on Unicum, a Hungarian bitter which has been described as "smelling like a hospital corridor" and having "a flavour akin to hairspray", and sits on the shelves of Motel looking like an evil version of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Motel's cocktail list has a drink that includes real gunpowder, but it lacks firepower compared to this dark and impenetrable Mitteleuropean concoction.

So is the drinking of various amari nothing but a display of macho masochism? Not at all, since the best are truly delicious after your palate has adjusted. Capitol is indeed the amaro capital of Wellington, featuring some exquisite and obscure liqueurs involving myrtle, gentian and other aromatic herbs. But my favourite discovery had to be Barolo Chinato, a much richer blend than expected, based upon the namesake wine and the addition of quinine.

Motel, Matterhorn, Scopa and Good Luck all have good selections, and many an evening was lost in contemplation of Averna, Ramazotti and their cousins (such as Becherovka, which with its light body, high alcohol content and cinnamon notes is more like a spirit than an amaro). But I guess I'm not a true purist, since my favourite amaro moment of the month was a "Johnny Roselli" cocktail (click the "drink" tab) at Hawthown Lounge: Montenegro, Dubonnet and really good dark rum, with a twist of flamed orange peel to tie it all together. Hmm, I can feel a return to cocktails in the near future...


At 11:42 pm, April 30, 2007, Blogger Joanna said...

We used to use a bottle of Unicum that we found in our parents' liquor cabinet to clean the stove and to wipe twink off things.

At 1:31 pm, May 02, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where you cna buy a bottle of Becherovka - I have been treasuring mine since I visited Prague, but these things just don't last forever...

At 3:03 pm, May 04, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Joanna: that just shows what a versatile drink it is.

m-d: I'm not sure where one would buy Becherovka. I might ask Matterhorn where they got theirs (I tried it during a long and expensive night that started with Montenegro and ended somewhere between Hennessey XO and Lagavulin). Have you tried Moore Wilson, Rumbles and Regional Wines & Spirits?

At 3:47 pm, May 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the subject of Fernet Branca, they are running a brilliant Tui-like campaign here in Denmark entitled "Life is Bitter".

It's a series of white texts on a black background fading in and out:
- "That apartment you turned down in 1996 is now worth 1.3 million dollars"
- "Swedes have cheap cars"
- Americans pay only 34% in tax"
- "The sun shines 349 days a year in Egypt"
- "The national costume of Brazil is the G-string"
- "and You live in Denmark"
- "Life is Bitter"


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