April 21, 2012

amor y amargo {love & bitters}

My earliest association with bitters was an ancient-looking bottle of Fernet-Branca that my Italian grandparents kept in their liquor cabinet. Despite the little glasses they would sip after dinner each night, mysteriously the bottle's volume never seemed to change. I couldn't understand how they drank the stuff; one sniff and I was terrified.

Fortunately, my taste for bitter food and drink has grown considerably since then - I've even developed a fondness (though not quite love) for Campari. Time to take my bitters education to the next level.

My friend - and frequent conspirator in foodie adventures - Ray had read about the bitters bar Amor y Amargo in Edible recently and wanted to check it out. So last week we hustled down to the east village after work, intent on claiming a couple of seats at the tiny bar before it filled up.

Amor y Amargo serves a wide range of bitters, from Italian amaro to monastic French liqueurs, and features an artisanal line of small-batch products called Bittermens. The bitters can be enjoyed solo or in a stirred cocktail highlighting their appetite stimulating and digestive properties.

This place is serious about spirits; they even have house-made vermouth on tap. Plus they offer a wide variety of bitters to taste by the dropper -- from grapefruit to chocolate-chile mole, made from all sorts of creative blends of fruits, herbs, spices, and other botanicals.

Riff on a classic, the White NegroniBittermens Amère Sauvage with Gin and Amber Vermouth & Boston Bittahs. Potent and refreshing at the same time, thanks to the citrusy bitters.

Bittermens Gin and TonicGin, Bittermens Commonwealth Tonic Liqueur, Hopped Grapefruit Bitters & Maraschino.

The bar also serves a few simple tapas, perfect for nibbling alongside a cocktail; we tried a delicious, young and creamy Manchego accompanied by cubes of sweet membranillo (quince paste) and slices of toasted baguette. 

Of course we couldn't leave without some bitters to experiment with at home. 

Ray selected a bottle of Bittermens famed Xocolatl Mole Bitters, featuring chile and chocolate; rich, complex and a little spicy. According to the bartenders it can also be used in baking - to flavor a pastry cream, for example. 

I went for the Boston Bittahs, the star of the white negroni. With citrus and chamomile, it's an herbal and refreshing combination, perfect for summery drinks (like the Lillet and Bitters, recipe below).

{More information on Amor y Amargo can be found here. Plus, you can read all about the origins of the bar and Bittermens via this article from Edible magazine. Bittermens website here.}

Lillet & Bitters
serves 1

My idea of the perfect cocktail for a warm spring or summer evening. Lillet is a French fortified wine made with citrus and other botanicals, a classic apertif either solo on the rocks or stirred into a cocktail. It is quite sweet on its own, ideal for mixing with a dash of bitters and a splash of sparkling water (or dry sparkling white wine). Lillet comes in both white and rose varieties; I used white Lillet in this recipe. 

2 ounces Lillet
1 dropperful of Bittermens Boston Bittahs (about 1 teaspoon), or to taste
splash of sparkling water (such as Pellegrino)
strip of organic grapefruit zest (or other citrus zest), for garnish

Add a couple of ice cubes to a glass. Pour in Lillet, bitters, and a splash of sparkling water. Stir and garnish with zest. Serve immediately.


  1. A bitters bar? What a find. I am a fan of Camparisoda and Sanbitter. I will visit this place one day. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. What a fun outing! love the photos. the cocktail culture just keeps getting better and better (bittah and bittah too!)