Amaro - The 12 Top Italian Herbal liquers

By Timo Torner / Last updated on March 21, 2023

Amari can be intensely bitter and herbal but also fresh and citrusy - The range of flavors in Italian herbal liqueurs is enormous. Here are the best bottles to add to your home bar.
Best Amaro

Amari, the plural of Amaro liqueurs, are traditional Italian herbal liqueurs with a bittersweet taste. Amaro is the Italian term for bitter and comprises a whole variety of herbal liqueurs.

There are no strict rules on how to make an Amaro, what ingredients to use, or how high the alcohol content should be. Hence, the range of aromas, flavors, colors, level of bitterness, and ABV is great.

In general, Amari are made by macerating a secret set of ingredients. For that, a combination of roots, herbs, spices, flowers, and fruits is steeped in alcohol and then sweetened with sugar or syrup. 

Some Amari are bottled directly after the sweetening step. Others are aged in wooden barrels to intensify their flavor.

The best way to drink an Amaro is neat and slightly chilled. Sometimes the herbal liqueur is served on ice and garnished with a slice of orange. But that depends on the brand.

Best Amaro to sip or mix

Every type of Amaro has its own secret recipe and set of ingredients. Thus, some are intensely bitter, some strongly herbaceous, and others are almost floral or citrusy.

Below is a curated list of Amaro liqueurs that are a great addition to your home bar.

1. Campari

Campari amaro bottle

Color: Red
ABV: 21% - 28.5% (42 to 57 proof)
Price: $32
Taste: Bittersweet, but leaning toward the bitter side, with herbal notes and hints of orange and cinnamon.

Campari is an iconic representative of the Amaro family. It's one of the more bitter Amari and key to classic drinks like the Negroni or Americano cocktail. Many say that you either love Campari or you hate it. There's not much in between.

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2. Aperol

Aperol liqueur bottle

Color: Orange
ABV: 11% (22 proof)
Price: $28
Taste: Sweet, herbal but with a pronounced orange flavor

Aperol is one of the trendiest Amaro liqueurs. It's most famous for its use in the Aperol Spritz cocktail and started the whole Spritz movement.

Compared to Campari, Aperol is significantly less bitter and more citrusy. That and its low ABV make it a perfect ingredient for light summer drinks.

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3. Cynar

Cynar - Amaro with artichoke leaves

Color: Dark brown
ABV: 16.5% (33 proof)
Price: $24
Taste: Bittersweet with notes of caramel and toffee

Cynar is best known for its main ingredient - artichoke leaves. Together with 12 other herbs, roots, and plants, that leads to a rather sweet Amaro liqueur with a slightly bitter note. The liqueur is quite approachable and recommendable for beginners.

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4. Montenegro

Amaro Montenegro

Color: Amber-gold
ABV: 23% (46 proof)
Price: $36
Taste: Sweet and fruity

Amaro Montenegro is another rather sweet representative. The flavor profile includes fruity notes of oranges paired with warm notes of vanilla and cloves.

The herbal liqueur also has a subtle bitter note to it. But it's not enough to overpower the generally rather sweet taste.

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5. Nonino Quintessentia

Amaro Nonino

Color: Amber
ABV: 35% (70 proof)
Price: $45
Taste: Great balance of bitter and sweet with notes of orange, vanilla, caramel, and allspice.

Nonino Amaro Quintessentia is a beautifully balanced Amaro. It's great when served as a digestif but also an excellent ingredient in mixed drinks.

My favorite cocktail to make with it is the Mezcal Sour, to which Nonino adds wonderfully complex herbal notes.

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6. Fernet Branca

Fernet Branca liqueur

Color: Medium brown
ABV: 45% (90 proof)
Price: $36
Taste: Very herbaceous and bitter with only a bit of sweetness

Fernet is a sub-category of the Amaro family. A group of liqueurs popular for their intensely bitter and herbal taste.

Fernet is among bartenders' favorites and is also super popular in Argentina. Particularly in Argentina's national drink, the Fernandito (a combination of Fernet and coke).

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7. Averna

Amaro Averna

Color: Dark brown
ABV: 29% (58 proof)
Price: $34
Taste: Bittersweet, herbal, and spicy

Like Nonino, Amaro Averna has an excellent balance between bitter and sweet. The flavor profile shows an intriguing combination of herbal and spicy notes with hints of caramel and honey.

The best way to serve Averna is on the rocks with just a peel or slice of orange.

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8. Ramazzotti

Ramazzotti bottle

Color: Dark brown
ABV: 30% (60 proof)
Price: $28
Taste: Bittersweet and herbaceous with notes of berries, licorice, and spices

Ramazzotti Amaro is a palatable and affordable liqueur that works best on the rocks. It's also a great alternative to Amaro Averna.

Despite the relatively high amount of alcohol, the liqueur is relatively sweet and easy to drink.

9. Bràulio Bormio Alpino

Amaro Braulio

Color: Bronze
ABV: 21% (42 proof)
Price: $39
Taste: Floral, rooty, spicy, and bittersweet with a kick of mint

Braulio Bormio Alpino is an Amaro named after one of the mountains around the town of Bormio.

The popular digestif is traditionally served at room temperature or slightly chilled. In Italy, you can also order it as an aperitif mixed with sparkling wine.

10. Meletti

Meletti Amaro

Color: Dark amber
ABV: 32% (64 proof)
Price: $22
Taste: Rich and sweet with notes of caramel, chocolate, saffron, and anise

Meletti is a sweet and rich Amaro. It's famous for its aftertaste of saffron and caramel.

For an Amaro, the flavor profile is surprisingly sweet. That makes it an ideal alternative to other sweet Amari like Ramazzotti and Averna.

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11. Lucano

Amaro Lucano

Color: Caramel
ABV: 28% (56 proof)
Price: $30
Taste: Bittersweet and earthy with notes of allspice, citrus, and caramel

Amaro Lucano was first introduced in 1894. The secret recipe calls for 30 different ingredients from all over the world, including musk yarrow, angelica roots, gentian, aloe, and bitter orange peels.

Lucano is most often served on the rocks but is also an excellent base for cocktails.

12. CioCiaro

Amaro cioCiaro

Color: Dark brown
ABV: 30% (60 proof)
Price: $28
Taste: Sweet, herbal, and mineral with a slightly smoky kick

CioCiaro is an interesting Amaro with an unusual flavor profile. The taste is herbal and earthy, yet also citrusy.

On the palate, you get cola, orange, and gentian with hints of cloves. Cola is also quite present in the aftertaste, which also carries a hint of smoke.

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