What is Amaro Montenegro? The Italian Herbal Liqueur Explained

By Timo Torner / Last updated on August 30, 2023

Our guide to tasting and using Amaro Montenegro.
Amaro Montenegro liqueur

As the name tells, Amaro Montenegro is a member of the Amaro liqueur family. It's an extremely popular, amber-colored, herbal liqueur from Bologna, Italy, and is made from 40 different botanicals. This selection of herbs, plants, flowers, barks, and roots is infused into a neutral base spirit. 

The bittersweet herbal liqueur was first produced in 1885. It's part of the Light Amaro sub-type, and it contains 23% of alcohol. Other Amari often range between 16% and 40% in alcohol.

Initially named Elisivir Lungavita, the liqueur was renamed Amaro Montenegro in honor of Italy's second Queen - Princess Elena of Montenegro. And until today, it remains one of Italy's best-selling Amari.

What exactly is Amaro Montenegro?

Amaro Montenegro is an Italian herbal liqueur with a bittersweet taste and an alcohol content of 23% ABV. The liqueur is produced by macerating various herbs and plants in a neutral spirit base.

In total, 40 different botanicals create the distinct taste of Amaro Montenegro. Amaro Montenegro uses a complex multi-step process to create the perfect balance of flavors between the ingredients. 

What does Amaro Montenegro taste like?

Amaro Montenegro is sweet and fruity with hints of floral notes from rose petals. You get orange and cherry flavors with more spicy notes from freshly cut coriander, cassia bark, and black pepper. It has a distinct bitter taste, but it's far less pronounced compared to other Amari.

The bitter flavor clearly comes from wormwood, which takes over mid-palate and is the dominating flavor in the finish. It balances the other flavors perfectly, creating a complex yet mild and gentle flavor profile.

If you're looking for a replacement, Amaro Meletti is an excellent choice. If you can't find that, check out our other recommendations for Montenegro substitutes.

Amaro Montenegro vs Nonino

Amaro Montenegro and Nonino are overall quite similar in taste and how to use in cocktails. However, they're very different when looking at the details, differing enormously in ABV, texture, sweetness, and key flavors. 

Amaro Montenegro only contains 23% alcohol compared to 35% in Amaro Nonino. It also has a higher viscosity and a slightly sweeter taste. Last but not least Montenegro Amaro boasts a distinct citrus note from oranges that is far more pronounced than in Amaro Nonino. Please, have a look at the table below for a more detailed comparison between the two Amari.

Amaro Montenegro Amaro Nonino
ABV 23% 35%
Proof 46 70
Taste Bittersweet, fruity, herbal Bittersweet, orange, honey
Base spirit Neutral spirit Grappa (grape spirit)
Consistency Slightly thick syrup less thick
Price $27 $47

Ingredients in Amaro Montenegro

Amaro Montenegro is based on a neutral spirit, flavored with a set of 40 botanicals, and sweetened with sugar. However, the brand reveals only 13 of the 40 ingredients: 

  • Coriander seeds
  • Artemisia blend
  • Cloves
  • Dried orange
  • Oregano
  • Marjoram
  • Licorice root
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Saffron
  • Sweet oranges
  • Bitter oranges

Yet, those ingredients are just the start because how they are processed is just as important - and complicated. According to the brand, the recipe is based on six flavor notes derived from the botanicals. These are:

  • Bitter and herbaceous
  • Spicy and floral
  • Chocolate and caramel
  • Fresh and balsamic
  • Vanilla and red fruits
  • Warm and tropical

How is Amaro Montenegro made?

The creation process of Amaro Montenegro is one of the most complex I have ever seen. To put it "simply" the Amaro consists of:

  • 40 botanicals
  • 12 Essences made from a secret selection of these botanicals
  • 6 flavor notes derived from these 12 essences
  • Plus 1 additional flavor note called "Il Premio"
  • Sugar, water, and alcohol

Producing Amaro Montenegro requires boiling, macerating, and distilling. The steps to make Amaro Montenegro are:

  1. Maceration: Mincing and cooking the ingredients to release their full aroma. After that, the botanicals get macerated in an alcoholic solution for about 20 to 30 days. 
  2. Distillation: The results are various extracts of our botanicals which get distilled to create the heart of the herbal liqueur. 
  3. Creating the flavor notes: At the end of the distillation, there are 12 mother essences left. By carefully mixing and blending those 12 essences, the Master Herbalist creates the six tasting notes of Amaro Montenegro.
  4. Blending: The six tasting notes are blended and married by adding water, sugar, and alcohol before the final ingredient - Il Premio.
  5. The final touch: The final ingredient is the true core of Amaro Montenegro. The name of it is "Il Premio", and it's the fundamental component of the secret recipe. The flavor of the Premio note is so intense that a single drop is enough to define the taste of one full bottle of Amaro Montenegro. So one liter of Premio is enough for 15,000 bottles.

How to drink it?

The best way to drink Amaro Montenegro is on ice and served with a fresh orange slice. This way you can best enjoy the delicate flavors of the liqueur. That is also the most common way to serve the Amaro in Italy, typically after a scrumptious meal.

But Amaro Montenegro also blends perfectly with other ingredients in mixed cocktails. It adds a subtle bitter note along with an intensely complex flavor profile. It works excellently as a substitute for Amaro Nonino in a Paper Plane cocktail, but also as an ingredient in many other recipes.

Amaro Montenegro in cocktails

Amaro Montenegro is a versatile liqueur that works in a variety of cocktails. Depending on the recipe and proportions, it adds sweetness, bitterness, or herbal complexity. Here are some excellent cocktails to make with this Amaro.


The herbal liqueur was established in 1885 by distiller Stanislao Cobianchi. The influential Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, a journalist and aristocrat, once called it the "liquor of virtues."

To find the perfect ingredients for his masterpiece, Cobianchi traveled across four continents. And during these travels, he collected all kinds of flowers, roots, leaves, citrus peels, woods, rinds, barks, seeds, stems, and fruits.

Cobianchi, being the master herbalist he was, extracted the essence of his ingredients in a meticulous multi-step process. 

This process has been handed down from generation to generation and is still applied today. And the production is still overseen by a master herbalist whose responsibility is to ensure consistent top quality.


The complex Amaro liqueur of amber color is a bartender's favorite for a reason. It has the typical herbal complexity of amaro liqueurs but with a less intense bitter note. Instead, the flavors are extremely well-balanced due to the intricate production process.

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