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Amaro Montenegro. [Photograph: italymag.co.uk]

Remember last Thanksgiving? When you sat down at the table with the best intentions of not overdoing it, then after seconds of everything (including pie) and enough picking at the serving platters during clean-up (that it really should count as thirds), you settled into a chair and felt like an overinflated balloon?

Hey, we've all been there. And in all likelihood, that's where many of us will be around this time tomorrow.

But as Eric Asimov writes in today's New York Times, there's a solution for those who've managed to overdo it yet again: amaro.

I've touched on the beauties of these (mostly) Italian bitter liqueurs before, and while in the U.S. they're typically used in cocktails—if they're used at all—in Italy and much of Europe, they have a long history as digestifs perfectly suited to remedy that post-indulgence discomfort.

Asimov writes, "The ancients anticipated these woeful moments of distress. Wise to the sensitive ways of the digestive system, they brewed tonics and elixirs intended to remedy such afflictions of excess."

While bitters such as Underberg from Germany or Zwack from Hungary, are effective in combating the effects of overindulgence, the Italians have made such spirits an art form.

Italian amari (the plural of amaro) can be as mild as Averna or Amaro Nonino, or a bit more assertive in flavor and bitterness as with Ramazzotti or Montenegro. Or they can pack a bracingly bitter slap, such as with the familiar Fernet Branca.

There are hundreds of styles of Italian amari but relatively few are exported to the United States, and even fewer are familiar sights in the liquor store. I try to pick up several interesting amari over the course of the year and this Thanksgiving, as I pack my bag for the in-laws' house, I'll be sure to bring along an amaro or two for postprandial relief.

Do you break out amari on the big day? Or do you have another method for dealing with the effects of overindulgence?

About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.

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