Amore amaro

Amore amaro

Aylin Öney Tan -
Amore amaro Love is bitter… No doubt about it! But one has to admit, there is a certain sweetness in love. For me, the most fitting word for love is in the Italian language: Amore. It reminds me of the bitter-sweet taste of love, and I find “amore” very similar to “amaro,” the bitter-sweet Italian digestive, and not by just mere similarity of the sound. Strangely, they fall to the same compartment in my mind.

The world of “amari” is a vast chapter in the Italian drink world. They are greatly appreciated not only for their haunting taste, but also for their medicinal qualities. Essentially, an amaro is an herbal liqueur that aims to balance the body and the functions of the liver. Anything can go in an amaro: Herbs, roots, tree bark, spices, flowers, peels or pits of fruits, or even mushrooms. The variety in the world of “amari” is unbelievably rich. Every single amaro is different in flavor, though they all bear the bond of sweetness and bitterness. That I also find similar with love; every single love is different, but at the end they are all very similar, at least in the aftertaste.

Coming back to the variations in the bitter digestives, the tastes differ depending on the main herbs, roots or spices used. Plants like gentian, angelica, cardoon and the cinchona tree are very much favored; so are aromatic herbs like sage, bay laurel, wild thyme, mint and menthol. Citrusy notes can be obtained either by using peel of citron, bergamot, Seville orange or from lemony herbs like melissa (lemon balm) or cedrina (lemon verbena). Spices like cinnamon, cassia or pepper add hotness; anise, fennel, eucalyptus or licorice gives a cooling effect. Usually a combination of dozens of ingredients is used to make a bitter digestive, often with recipes that are kept secret. Sometimes, a very expensive ingredient like saffron goes in. There is even a truffle-based digestive, rightly named Tartufo.

Sometimes, it is honestly straight-forward, like the artichoke-based Cynar or Carciofo. Like love, an amaro can be immensely complicated, or can be simply pure. The potency range is also amazing. The alcohol content can vary greatly; so can the sugar content. Love can also vary in taste. It can be cloyingly sweet, or it can be extremely bitter to a level that it is not edible or, if compared with amaro, not potable anymore. Like amaro, it can cure you, or if consumed in excess, or in better words, if you’re too consumed in it, it may make you sick.

Amore is amaro indeed. Enjoy Valentine Day with a glass of bitter and your sweetheart, keeping in mind the bitterness is essential to enjoy sweetness better.

Bite of the Week

Fork and Cork of the Week: Forget about all your plans for Valentine’s day. If there is one thing you should do, it is teatime at Pera Palace Jumeirah. All the little bites are exquisite. Their crumbly cheese biscuits are melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness that goes wonderfully with an amaro cocktail or a glass of bubbly. They also have tea-based cocktails served in silver teapots; some are mildly aromatic, some are strongly potent. But above all, what makes Pera Palace teatime so special is the music of the lovely İlham Gencer, the chap who introduced jazz music to Turkey. He is still strong, almost 90 years old, and he plays the piano and sings for three hours, seven days a week at teatime. Take your sweetheart, and be there on time to enjoy every moment. He starts at 15:00 pm, and you’ll never forget this experience. Reserve your place from 0212 377 490 00.

Another event not to miss this week is at Frankie, where Dennis Zippo will take the bar stage on Feb 13. He is from Smile Tree bar in Torino, and was the winner in Italy of the bartender competition World Class in 2013. As Torino is like the epicenter of amaro culture in Italy, I assume he will make lovely concoctions using various bitters, and hopefully make his signature cocktail “Italiano.” It is fun to watch him make his creation:

Check out for details.