Amaro Nonino Quintessentia is one of the more expensive members ($50) of the Amaro family. And Amaro is Italian and translates to "bitter" which is exactly what you get. The bittersweet liqueur contains a variety of herbs, flowers, roots, and barks. If you have never tried Amaro before and want to make the first encounter, Amaro Nonino is an excellent choice.
While many Amari tend to be quite sweet, the Amaro Nonino is a more balanced Amaro. Its aromas are mild with only a slightly bitter flavor and delicate herbal notes, as well as hints of oranges. It's an excellent digestif and a taste-defining ingredient in many drinks and cocktails.
If you want to know more about what Amaro Nonino is and how it's made, read on to learn more about this classic Italian category of liqueurs.
A short guide to Amaro liqueurs
Amaro Nonino is a part of the Amaro category. So far, so good. But what exactly does that mean? Amaro is the Italian word for bitter. That alone shows that the roots of this category are in Italy. And until today, Italy still is the only producer of official Amari. But these days, there are plenty of similar products from other countries, as well. Products like Jägermeister, Becherovka, Boonekamp, and Unicum are just a few of them.
All Amari -the plural of Amaro- have an alcoholic base that gets infused with a large variety of herbs, flowers, barks, and roots. The resulting herbal liqueur usually contains between 16% and 40% alcohol. This wide range of ABV is due to the different bases. Most Amaro liqueurs are grain-spirit based, but some use Grappa or wine.
History of Amaro Nonino Quintessentia
Back to Amaro Nonino Quintessentia. The Nonino distillery was opened in 1897 when Orazio started to make Grappa Nonino in Ronchi di Percoto. Back then, the distillery only produced Grappa.
It took until 1933 when Antonio Nonino, son of Orazio, tried to bring herbs from the Friuli region into an Amaro. He used the Grappa Nonino as a base and infused it with herbs from Carnia. The result was the first Amaro from Nonino - its name was Amaro Carnia.
More than 50 years later, in 1984, they eventually laid the foundation of today's Amaro Nonino Quintessentia. Giannola and Benito Nonnino started to develop a grape distillate in honor of their late father, Antonio. The result was a high-quality Grappa that brought the whole product range to a new level.
In 1987, the Nonino brand eventually started to age this high-quality Grappa in small barrique barrels. This matured version is the base of Amaro Nonino as we know it today.
And finally, in 1992 Amaro Nonino was first produced. And since then, only Grappa aged for at least 12 months gets used as the base for it. The recipe goes back to Antonio Nonino's first Amaro creation from 1933 and makes one of the best-balanced Amaros in the market.
How does Amaro Nonino taste?
Amaro Nonino is made after a closely guarded family recipe. What's known is that the base is Grappa that aged in Barrique barrels for 12 months. And they also gave away some ingredients like Thyme, bitter orange, cinchona, galenga, quassia wood, saffron, quinine bark, tamarind, and Wormwood.
Due to the Grappa base, the liqueur has a unique taste and a pretty high percentage of alcohol (35%), too. Especially when compared to a low-ABV Amaro like Aperol (11% ABV).
Amaro Nonino should be poured at room temperature. It has a warm, golden color, and the nose is fruity with notes of orange and apricot. But there are also traces of caramel-like sweetness and spicy herbal aromas.
The taste of this Amaro is very complex but at the same time extremely well-balanced. It's a brilliantly bittersweet mix of orange, caramel, gentian, and other herbs. And the aftertaste also carries sweetness, bitterness, and some subtle spice.
How to serve Nonino Amaro
The Italian amaro liqueur is typically served as an aperitif or digestif. Poured on the rocks you can either drink it purely with just a splash of lemon juice, garnished with a lemon peel or lemon wheel. Another option is to combine it with some other ingredients. One possibility is to add chilled soda water and fresh grapefruit juice. Another is to mix it with Sweet Vermouth and an orange peel.
What are Amaro Nonino substitutes?
IIf you can't get your hands on Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, and look for an Amaro of similar taste, Amaro Tosolini is an excellent choice as it's pretty close to the Nonino. But there are plenty more ways to replace Amaro Nonino.
Amaro Nonino in cocktails
Since Amaro Nonino is a relatively young liqueur, you won't find it in many classic cocktails. However, you can integrate it into classic cocktail recipes by substituting other Amari. One great example is the Paper Plane cocktail. By replacing the common Aperol with Amaro Nonino, you'll get a bolder and more intense interpretation of the traditional recipe. And it also works great in a Spritz cocktail. Just use the classic ratios of an Aperol Spritz, and you'll get a delicious, refreshing, and bittersweet Spritz.