We like our bitter liqueurs in San Francisco: enthusiastically celebrating Negroni Week, singlehandedly kept Fernet Branca in business for years, and now thanks to broVo, a distillery in Washington State, we have three custom amari to enjoy.
As part of their Amaro Project that started with seven Seattle bartenders, broVo reached out to three San Franciscans to create their own signature recipe: Amanda Womack of Cask, Will Popko of Hard Water, and Suzanne Miller of Novela. Each recipe has a distinctive flavor profile and style, expanding the range of what an amaro can taste like.
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BroVo Amaro Project #8 (Amanda Womack's Floral Gentian Amaro; 30 percent ABV -- buy it here) of the three carries the biggest wallop of bitter gentian root. The aroma is floral and herbaceous from the blend of linden, rose, and chrysanthemum. The amaro is surprisingly light-bodied, almost in a vermouth way, barely sweet with a strong bitterness that tingles on the tongue.
BroVo Amaro Project #9 (Will Popko's Pineapple Sage Amaro; 30 percent ABV -- buy it here) has an herbal sweet smell, like walking past an herbalist shop next to a produce market in Chinatown. The taste has a light bitterness, faint floral-fruitiness, with woodsy vanilla and lingering orange peel bitterness.
BroVo Amaro Project #10 (Suzanne Miller's Spice Amaro; 30 percent ABV -- buy it here) is all about spices, rich with the scent of the holidays: rich, woodsy warmth, and almost pie like. Just mildly bitter, loaded with the flavors of sweet spices (clove, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg), and a good kick of cinnamon heat.
The Amaro Project itself might not have happened at all if it hadn't been for a botched batch of rhubarb liqueur that the distillery had been trying to make. After making some small test batches, they started production. "We went out and bought a ton of rhubarb, says Mhairi Voelsgen, co-founder of broVo Spirits. "We made the big batch. It wasn't the same. After much experimentation and sampling with bartenders, we decided that it did not work. The rhubarb flavor was not strong enough. We decided not to release it. That left us with $25k worth of rhubarb liquor in the tank."
The timing couldn't have been worse for the fledgling business, as at that point in April of 2012, the state of Washington was transitioning to a private liquor market from state-run distribution and sales. The business had not seen revenue for seven months.
"We went where everyone goes- online - to see what we could do with the rhubarb," says Voelsgen.
After hearing about some rhubarb-based amari, and chatting with some local bartenders, they decided to collaborate on a few recipes. Those amari were so successful and the resulting spirits so interesting that broVo expanded the project to other cities, including San Francisco. Here's to seeing more Bay Area based editions in the future.
Despite The Rage I Am Still Just Pineapple & Sage
By Will Popko
1 ½ oz. Vida Mezcal
½ oz. broVo Project Amaro #9 (Will Popko's Pineapple Sage Amaro)
½ oz. Small Hand Foods Pineapple Gum Syrup
Half a lemon (cut into 4 wedges)*
4-6 mint leaves
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake hard for seven seconds and strain into an Old Fashioned glass with fresh ice. Garnish with mint sprig.
* It's gotta be lemons and not just lemon juice so you can get the oils from the peel when you shake.