This amaro is a little over two hundred years old. Well, ok, not this particular amaro being reviewed right here. This particular amaro being reviewed right here is maybe a year old, give or take a few months. The Ramazzotti brand however, was created in 1815 in Milan by Ausano Ramazzotti, making it one of the oldest amari brands still available today. According to the company literature, Ramazzotti’s amaro was fairly successful early on, but didn’t really take off until Ausano opened up a well-placed bar in the heart of Milan. By mid-century, as perhaps the first widely commercially available amaro with the added metropolitan cache of the cafe, Ramazzotti’s concoction became the most popular bitter liqueur in Italy. When Ausano passed away, the business passed to his two sons, who ran it with just as much passion and success as their father. Between the 20’s and the 50’s, they took advantage of the advertising medium of the time, the poster. With the help of a few of the art form’s more famous artists like Cappiello, Montanari, and Seneca, the company created beautiful, iconic advertising images some of which are still familiar and in demand today.
During World War Two, the family’s distillery was destroyed, but the determined brothers rebuilt quickly and by the 1960’s had begun to move the brand to markets outside of Italy. In 1985, the Ramazzotti family sold the company to Pernod Ricard where it has resided ever since. Over the years, the brand has added some new expressions to the lineup, including an amaro menta, a sambuca, the Aperitivo Rosato, and something called Ramazzotti Black. The flagship, red-labeled Ramazotti Amaro we’re concerning ourselves with here reportedly uses today the same recipe of 33 different botanicals, fruits, and herbs that it did back when ol’ Ausano Ramazotti whipped up his first batch in 1815. According to Brad Thomas Parson’s Amaro, a few of the known ingredients include bitter orange, cardamom, clove, galangal, myrrh, star anise, and sweet orange.
The Nose: Thick, herbal, and sweet. Upfront there’s a lot of lemon peel, orange oil and a good whiff of those hard, slightly artificial tasting root beer barrel candies. After that, there’s candied anise seeds, grapefruit peel, cardamom pods and raw ginger. Subtler notes of clove oil, gentian root, allspice, and greenish wood.
The Palate: Syrupy and sweet, though perhaps a little less sweet and bitter than the nose lets on. There’s more of that root beer candy, along with some citrus-y, almost PX sherry notes. There’s a bit more cardamom and clove with some fennel and cinnamon coming through towards the end.
The Finish: The root beer-y sweetness stays on the lips. Herbal, and slightly woody with faint hints of chicories and cocoa nibs and a slight minty-ness as it fades.
Thoughts: Quite sweet and not too bitter, this one is a thick, bold amaro that took me a while to warm up to. Those prominent root beer and citrus notes sometimes leave me wishing for a bit more bitterness and herbal influence, but in the right setting this does work well. I’ve read that in Milan, it’s common to pour a bit of this in an espresso, which actually sounds fantastic given the sweetness and some of the almost coffee-esque notes. I find this a little cloying and sweet to sip on its own, but with its high proof, I think it’s a good cocktail amaro. I really like playing with it in variations on a Manhattan or a Boulevardier, where it holds its own against spicy, high proof ryes and bourbons. For comparisons sake, I’d put this one closer to Averna in terms of its relative bitterness and sweetness, though it’s a lot less expensive. For around $20-$25, it’s definitely worth a try.
- “Ausano Ramazzotti – Man Behind The Bottle.” Exposition Universelle Des Vins Et Spiritueux, http://www.euvs.org/en/discover/man-behind-the-bottle/ramazzotti.
- Bitterman, Mark, et al. Bittermans Field Guide to Bitters and Amari: 500 Bitters, 50 Amari: 123 Recipes for Cocktails, Food & Homemade Bitters. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015.
- Chicago Tribune. “PERNOD BUYS CONTROL OF RAMAZZOTTI SPIRITS.” Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune, 31 Oct. 1985, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1985-10-31-8503140671-story.html.
- “Communication and Media.” Ramazzotti 1815, http://www.ramazzotti1815.com/en/communication-and-media.
- “Heritage and History.” Ramazzotti 1815, http://www.ramazzotti1815.com/en/heritage-and-history.
- “Leonetto Cappiello.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonetto_Cappiello.
- Parsons, Brad Thomas. Amaro: the spirited world of bittersweet, herbal liqueurs with cocktails, recipes & formulas. Berkeley, Ten Speed Press, 2016.