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Ask a Bartender: What's Your Favorite Bitter Liqueur or Amaro?

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Marci Wenrich of Pakpao in Dallas

Campari, Cynar, the ever-popular Fernet: bitter liqueurs have never been bigger. But which ones should you try? We asked some of our favorite bartenders about their favorites; here's what they had to say.


"I'm really liking Suze right now. Add that to some Topo Chico (Mexican mineral water) and it's perfect." — Marci Wenrich (Pakpao)

"Amaro dell'Erborista. It's from the Varnellis and it is bitterly amazing." — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)

"It would have to be Suze. It's extremely dry, bitter but has a great grassy and lemon oil quality to it." — Brian Means (Fifth Floor)

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Jason Wiles of Poste Moderne Brasserie in Washington D.C.

"I was just up in Chicago and was exposed to a spirit I've never had before called Malort. In particular I was drinking Jeppson's Malort based out of Chicago. It's a bitter liqueur made with wormwood and other botanicals." — Jason Wiles (Poste Moderne Brasserie)

"Nardini Amaro Bassano. I tried this a few months ago and fell in love. It is a higher quality amaro that is wonderful on its own, but would be great to mix with any bold bourbon or rye. It's an amaro that has this superbly subtle sweetness that lingers." — Roger Bailey (Filini Bar and Restaurant)

"Right now, I'm into Cocchi Rosa. A rose apertif with lots of berry and white rose notes. I love drinking it on the rocks with a splash of soda." —Kevin Diedrich (Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen)

Kat Dunn of Fish & Game in Hudson, New York

"Hands down, Cynar.  It's wonderful on its own but great with Mezcal or Bourbon." — Kat Dunn (Fish & Game)

"Cynar, by a long shot. Light, bitter, lightly sweet, and faintly flavored with artichoke." —Mike Ryan (Sable)

"I love amari in general, but I have an affinity for Cynar, which I find to be a great accent component when creating drinks. I use it almost as much as others use St. Germain." — Elizabeth Powell (Liberty Bar)

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Griffin Elliot of Sepia in Chicago

"My favorite bitter liqueur: Gran Classico Bitter. Aperitif: Kina L'Avion D' Or. Digestif: Fernet Branca. Amaro: Montenegro." — Griffin Elliott (Sepia)

"Right now I'm really enjoying Amaro Nonino, it has such a well rounded flavor that is great on its own but really takes cocktails up a notch. I use it in one of our newest cocktails called 'Oh No.'" — Armand Rodriguez (Juvia)

"Campari. Hands down. I am just a huge fanatic for the booze (besides the fact that my favorite color is red. Otherwise I'm a Cynar, Averna or Fernet Menta gal." — Pamela Wiznitzer (Dead Rabbit)

"Probably Campari. I love its versatility, bittersweet flavor and gorgeous color." — Dan Andruss (312 Chicago)

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Sarah Mengoni of South Water Kitchen in Chicago

"So many great ones! I love Averna. It's a great introductory amaro for the uninitiated." — Sarah Mengoni (South Water Kitchen)

"My favorite bitter aperitif would have to be Averna. It's an amaro, and you can taste the bitter notes, but there are also sweet herbal notes that add great complexity to cocktails." — Dean Feddaoui (Jackson 20)

"Salers. It's a French Gentiane apertif that's bittersweet and little earthy. It's similar to Suze but much softer, more elegant and works so, so well with cocktails. Salers... so good." — Greg Sorrell (The Patterson House)

"I've been using Casoni 1814 aperitivo as a mixing agent because of its balance of sweetness to bitterness and inherent richness. As a singular dose I enjoy an Amaro, usually Averna." — Matthew Perry (Belly & Trumpet)

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Jon Harris of Firefly in Washington D.C.

"I've been known to drink Angostura bitters in shot form. Campari if I'm feeling civilized." — Jonathan Harris (Firefly)

"I love vermouth, and often order one on the rocks or with a splash of soda. Which one I order depends on my mood, but I would say the most common is Noilly Prat Original Dry." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)

"Fernet Branca. I was apprehensively turned on to this after hitting a suspect taco truck. A friend and I had just sat down at a bar and the beads of sweat, buckling over, and incessant complaining, led him to suggest having a glass of Fernet. It was a miracle drug." — Peter Abbruscato (Pork Slope)

"My favorite Amaro is Fernet Branca, a likely choice given my roots in San Francisco, but I really enjoy Cynar, Luxardo Abano, and Averna." — Darren Crawford (Krescendo, Bourbon & Branch)

"Umm...Fernet Branca of course." — Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)

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