Everybody knows Fernet. But do you know Cardamaro, Meletti or Sibona? Most of us only know amari by its most popular bottle (here at least), but the gang at Orsetto Italian Bar and Eatery is introducing a wider selection to the valley, feeding the urge for this herbal digestif.
If you haven’t visited this new Italian restaurant, created by the team behind Cafe Genevieve, then do yourself a favor and make a reservation for the weekend. Among all the many menu highlights (cacio e pepe, osso buco), is an interesting amari list curated by sommelier Colin Flory.
Amaro, which means bitter in Italian, is an after dinner digestif consumed for years in Europe, mainly Italy. Flory discovered them years ago at his sister’s wedding in Tuscany. (Note, amari is the plural of amaro). Amari is experiencing a surge in popularly here in the U.S., and Orsetto what seems to be the largest offering of it in Jackson.
“I wanted to go all Italian with everything,” Flory said of the wine and cocktail program at Orsetto. Of the 70 or so wines in rotation, all are Italian.
As for the amari, the current list has nine. Under digestivi (think more along the lines of a dessert drink) you’ll find another seven. If you are unfamiliar with amari, Flory suggest sampling the amari flight. “It’s a fun way to educate yourself and see what you like,” he said.
A flight includes three smaller portions for $15. For those seeking an introduction to amari, Flory suggests starting with montenegro, the most delicate of his bottles. “It’s not so much on the bitter end of the spectrum,” he said. “It’s a little sweet. It has some citrus, orange peel and vanilla, so it’s much for delicate and easier.”
For those looking for something more bitter, or who have worked their way up to stronger flavors, sibona sits at the other end of the spectrum, with an almost medicinal flavor.
“It’s just an acquired taste,” Flory said. “But after a big meal the flavors are exactly what you want. It totally settles the stomach and helps digestion.”
And if sipping straight is still tough, Orsetto offers cocktails with with these Italian liquors, an even easier way to sample them. These go way beyond your standard Fernet and Coke. Think blackberry with tequila, Campari and Cocchi Americano.
Orsetto is open nightly at 5, at 161 N Center Street (a half block northeast from the Town Square).