• Julia Thiel
  • The Amora Amaro (left) and Road to Manhattan cocktails

Angostura bitters is a cocktail staple, ubiquitous at even the most poorly stocked bars. The recipe, allegedly known to only five people in the world, is a closely guarded secret; the only ingredient listed on the bottle besides alcohol, water, sugar, and “natural flavorings” is gentian (a bittering agent). There are supposedly a total of 47 ingredients in the bitters, mostly herbs and spices—but which ones is anyone’s guess.

The House of Angostura recently released a new, related product: Amaro di Angostura, a liqueur created from Angostura bitters steeped with a neutral spirit, more herbs and spices, and (presumably) more sugar. Unlike Angostura bitters, which is so intense in flavor that it’s usually measured in dashes rather than ounces, the amaro can be consumed straight. It’s very sweet, with lots of warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves, some fennel and licorice, and—improbably but undeniably—just a hint of mint flavor.

It’s not bad straight, but if (like me) you’re not much of a liqueur fan, you’ll probably want to put it in a cocktail. I searched the internet for suggestions and found several recipes from the Alcohol Professor that had been served at an Amaro di Angostura event in Brooklyn—most notably, one called Amora Amaro, which calls for an ounce and a half of the amaro in addition to a full three-quarters of an ounce of Angostura bitters, along with an ounce each of simple syrup and lime juice. Though it’s usually used in such small quantities that it doesn’t affect the alcohol content of cocktails, Angostura bitters is nearly 45 percent alcohol, making it higher proof than your average hard alcohol. Amaro di Angostura is a bit lower—35 percent alcohol—but the two of them together can make a decently high-proof (if unlikely sounding) cocktail in the absence of any other alcohol.

I was skeptical about the Amora Amaro, but it turned out to be outstanding. Complex and confounding, it’s like no other cocktail I’ve tasted—dark, rich, and intense, but brightened up and balanced by the lime. It’s simultaneously sweet, sour, and fruity, with lots of warm spices and less herbal flavor than you’d expect (it’s there, but not dominant). It reminds me a little of the Planter’s Punch I made last summer, which used an ounce and a quarter of Angostura bitters—I thought that was a lot, but it makes eight or more cocktails. I assumed at the time that the fresh nutmeg in the punch was what made it unusual, but I may have been underestimating the role of the bitters. I shouldn’t have; I realized when I was making Pink Gin—which is just gin and Angostura bitters—how completely the bitters can transform a drink (or straight alcohol).

I had less success with the Road to Manhattan, a combination of Angostura 1824 rum, Amaro di Angostura, ginger liqueur, and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters. I didn’t have the rum the recipe called for, but the blogger who shared it said that the cocktail tasted a little like a Dark & Stormy, so I used Gosling’s rum. It turned out to smell and taste harshly alcoholic. I could taste the rum, sweetness, and ginger, but all separately; the ingredients didn’t mesh. It was like a Dark & Stormy made with flat ginger ale and no lime juice. I tried adding a half ounce of lime juice, a little more ginger liqueur, and a bit of sparkling water, which improved it exponentially—the cocktail went from tasting like a bad Dark & Stormy to an unusually complex version of the drink. I’d still stick with the Amora Amaro, though.

Amora Amaro
1.5 oz Amaro di Angostura
.75 oz Angostura bitters
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz lime juice

Shake all ingredients with ice until well chilled. Double-strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish.

Road To Manhattan (modified)
1 oz Gosling’s rum
1 oz Amaro di Angostura
1 oz ginger liqueur
.5 oz lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Soda water

Stir all ingredients with ice until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube and top off with a splash of soda water.