Campari, Aperol, Cynar—we’re fans of any Italian bitter liqueur. Only more recently are American distillers starting to get into the game. But we think that Bruto Americano, from California-based St. George Spirits, deserve to rank up with the greats of the amaro world.
The herbs and botanicals in these kinds of liqueurs are almost always local, which is what gives amari such a sense of place. Bruto Americano is no different, with California-grown Seville orange, balsam fir, and California buckthorn bark all in the mix.
With a deep, brooding red hue, Bruto Americano might have you expecting something a lot like Campari. But while the bitterness level is similar, Bruto Americano has a woodsier, earthier quality that we find extremely compelling. Try it in one of these three cocktails.
Easy: Bruto Boulevardier
The Boulevardier is, essentially, a whiskey Negroni: Campari and sweet vermouth, with whiskey swapped in for gin. Usually we reach for rye in a Boulevardier, which we love for its dry, spicy qualities. But with Bruto Americano, we find that slightly sweeter, mellower bourbon is an even better match.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine an ounce of bourbon, an ounce of sweet vermouth, and an ounce of Bruto Americano, with one dash of Angostura bitters. Stir until very well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a big twist of orange peel—twisting over the surface of the drink to spray its citrus oils all over.
Intermediate: Bruto Buck
Ginger beer, with its robust character and distinctive ginger spice, is a slam-dunk match for the Bruto Americano—fresh lime and a little sugar are all it needs to brighten it up and balance it out.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half of Bruto Americano, half an ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice, and half an ounce of simple syrup. Shake that all up and strain into a tall glass or wine glass with fresh ice. Top with two ounces of ginger beer and stir briefly. Garnish with a thin lime wheel.
Advanced: Bruto & Cherries
In addition to its more bitter elements, Bruto does have a bright burst of citrus at the beginning. We found it a perfect match for the juicy flavor of summer cherries (which, of course, just make the Bruto’s red even redder). Rather than reaching for vodka or gin, we found that tequila was an unusual but extremely effective addition.
Instructions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, firmly muddle 5 cherries, pitted and cut in half. Add an ounce of blanco tequila, 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice, an ounce of Bruto Americano, and 1/4 ounce simple syrup, along with ice. Shake very well and double-strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Top with an ounce of club soda and stir briefly. Garnish with a cherry and a lemon wheel.
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