Trend watch: that's amari

Photography: Vanessa Levis

For lovers of bitter Italian booze, things in Australia have never looked sweeter. Amari, the bitter drinks that in Italy bracket a meal as aperitivi and (more often) digestivi, have been in Australia as long, perhaps, as Italians have, but in recent years the range and intensity of what's on offer has grown significantly. At Sydney's La Rosa the selection is so substantial that the list has been broken down according to whether the amaro in question is based mostly, for instance, on roots, barks and berries or citrus fruits. "We immigrant kids grew up with bitterness in the diet much more than Australian kids," says La Rosa's Nino Zoccali. "Chinotto was our Coke and radicchio and other chicories comprised our salads, so we're used to it, but I think the collective Australian palate has shifted, because many people have 'trained' themselves to like these drinks." Bartenders are in on the act, too, whether in popularising more bitter drinks, such as the Hanky Panky, a classic embittered by Fernet-Branca, or simply shooting the Fernet themselves after-hours. If Fernet is too much to face, Zoccali counsels starting with the gentler Aperol or Montenegro. For advanced bitter palates, meanwhile, he recommends the herbal centerba family of drinks ("centerba" meaning 100 herbs). Be brave. 

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