Happy National Liqueur Day! No, not national liquor day–though it is a form of liquor–but liqueur day, a flavored alcoholic beverage that’s bottled with added sugar. (Yes, rums and vodkas can be flavored, but they are usually infusions that do not include any extra sugars in the mix.) Sometimes called cordials or schnapps, liqueurs usually have a lower alcohol content than straight-up liquors, and can be made by infusion, distillation, or just plain adding flavoring syrup (those taste the best!) Liqueurs can come in a myriad of flavors of just about anything your mind can think of, from nuts to fruits to flowers to coffee or candy (peppermint schnapps, mmmm!) We’ve already had national food holidays for particularly famous liqueurs, like Kahlua, Grand Marnier, and Amaretto (my personal favorite!) But liqueurs come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors: just the wikipedia list of liqueurs makes my head spin!
Liqueurs have always been my go-to alcohol of choice when I’m drinking, because they are low in alcohol content, are typically used for mixed drinks, and most of all, they don’t taste like there’s any alcohol in them! You can even drink many liqueurs straight, on the rocks, or with just a splash of a mixer–that’s how yummy they all are. You can sip on your favorite flavor–liqueurs come in berry, chocolate, coffee, cream, flower, fruit, herbal, honey, and nut-flavors…so many to choose from! But if you’re lucky, stop into your local liquor store and see if they have any products from Finger Lakes Distilleries, one of the few distilleries in New York State making hard liquors. Aged in oak barrels and sweetened with local maple syrup, the central New York company sells blueberry, cherry, and raspberry liqueurs, as well as a maplejack liqueur that tastes just like maple syrup! What a way to celebrate the state you live in
Considering how much emphasis is put on liqueurs being sweet and tasting good (for us lightweights lol), one brand of liqueurs isn’t supposed to be sweet at all–they’re infused with herbs to be bittersweet. Their name itself–”Amaro”–is Italian for “bitter,” and they’re usually aged and flavored with such not-so-sweet herbs as juniper, anise, fennel, and licorice. It’s an after-dinner liqueur that’s drunk straight in the Italian tradition (but I won’t tell if you drink it any time!) It’s a refined taste that says, “My taste buds have grown up since the butterscotch schnapps in college–but I can’t hold my liquor any better!” (Or, at least, that’s what amaro says about me. :P) You can try this ingenious little liqueur at Amor y Amargo, a bar that’s specifically known for their wide variety of amari. They infuse their own bitters into liqueur to make new “experimental” combinations, so you can try them neat, or as a blended mix of a cocktail–the slightly bitter edge to complement a super-sweet drink. And if bitterness isn’t your bag, you can always go for a sweet vermouth–which they have on tap, the only bar in New York City to do so. But make sure you get here early: the tiny bar only holds so many bitters enthusiasts, and on National Liqueur Day, you want to make sure one of them will be you!
Amor y Amargo
443 E 6th St (between Avenue A & 1st Ave)
“The focus here is on amari and other bitters, which can be explored via tasting flights or excellent stirred cocktails created by Mayur Subbarao (Dram). Sip your way through a range of trendy fernet or herbal liqueurs made by Carthusian monks, then try the Orchard Street Cel’ry Soda—a fizzy, dry quaff built with applejack, jenever, club soda, and experimental bitters laced with caraway and ginger.”–Time Out New York
“I think we definitely function as an expression of a DIY mentality. This is very much about playing around with stuff, and making things, and showing them to people. We also do classics, and a big part of that is trying to communicate the knowledge that we have to other people. So, to a certain extent, our mission is to educate, but definitely also to express our own skills. To let people have an idea of why bitters, bitter liqueurs, et cetera, are important. It wasn’t always so approachable.”–A & H Magazine
“The most popular drink on the menu is the house Gin & Tonic, made with their quinine-laced Commonwealth “tonic cordial” mixed with soda water, Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters, Maraschino liqueur and, oh yeah, gin. The drink was named one of Time Out New York’s 100 Best Dishes and Drinks of 2011.”–Edible Manhattan
“NYC’s first bitters bar opens up new vistas of boozing pleasures. Liqueurs, amaros, and experiments from the Bittermens crew you’re not going to find anywhere else. Vermouth on tap makes for another New York first, and a good excuse to reconsider Negronis. Elaborate cocktail program accommodates DIY with mini general store hawking barware and bitters. Classes for noobs. Festive, tiled space, but only seats twelve, so time your visit carefully.”–Black Book Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“There couldn’t really be a more perfect bar. If you like bitters and bitter liqueurs and spirits that are NOT vodka, you will like it here. Being into all these things.. big time, I was in heaven! There was a super cool, super chill bartender the night we went and he made us awesome, sophisticated bitters based cocktails. They totally get it here.”–Ari R.
“The specialties here are the bitters. No vodka. No wine. No beer. The beautiful collection of bitters, citrus peels, and various other liqueurs are concocted together to produce a potent elixer. I was so enamored with Amor y Amargo’s concept that after ordering a Negroni, I ordered off the menu. I gave a few flavor profiles that I like and then let him have free reign to produce something that I would like. When my friend finally escaped work, he did the same and it’s an understatement to say that neither of us were disappointed. Beautiful place to enjoy cocktails that are far beyond the overly sweet and fruity connotations that one thinks of. Also I highly recommend for a first date if you’re looking to show a little sophisticated dash.”–Elle P.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!