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The origin story of my house cocktail begins with a glass of amaro, the bitter Italian liquor flavored with a secret mixture of herbs, roots, dried citrus peel and who-knows-what. After a meal at Frankies Sputino, a terrific Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, a friend offered me a taste as they drink it in Italy: straight-up, after a meal, as a digestif. I wasn’t a fan. Too syrupy, too bitter, too sweet. But, I thought at the time, this would go great with some seltzer and a splash of citrus.
So I tried that combo — and loved it. The seltzer cut through the viscous amaro and some lemon (or a combination of lemon and orange) brightened its dark flavors. It was refreshing, tasty and (to use a word I try to avoid when writing about booze) addictive. I tried a few amari and settled on Averna, a Sicilian brand that is particularly herbal and dark. I drank that combo all through that summer.