Amari. Once relegated to a full bar's highest hard-to-reach shelf, those dusty bottles (with the most beautiful labels) held the secret to modern mixology - one of the key elements to a perfect cocktail - the bitter.
Nowadays these Italian herbal digestifs are within the barman's reach, and prominently featured in many neoclassic cocktails. One I had never heard of that the good Chuck Taggart at Gumbo Pages got me in a tizzy to try is Amer Picon. Originally a French apertif based on bitter oranges, gentian and cinchona, it has over the years evolved through the hands of the Italians and also the Euskadi, who revere it.
Of course actually finding a bottle of Amer Picon is now near impossible in the States, but interestingly enough the Torani brand (yes, of the syrups) has taken up producing a rather faithful similar tasting, same proof, and more common knockoff. And Silverlake Wine sells it now - for 12 bucks a bottle!
Here's the traditional Amer Picon cocktail preparation via The Gumbo Pages (which essentially is an easy recipe to find, it's right on the bottle's front label!)
"The National Drink of the Basques"
2 ounces Amer Picon (substitute Amer Boudreau or Torani Amer)
2 barspoons (1 teaspoon) of grenadine
1/2 to 1 ounce brandy (optional)
To do it Italian-style, coat the inside of a tumbler with grenadine. Add the Amer and ice, top with about 4 ounces soda and stir. Twist the lemon peel over the drink and garnish. If you feel the cockles of your heart need further warming, float a tablespoon or two of brandy on top.
Also, thanks to Tasting Table LA for bringing my attention to the Roger Room's Pecan Millionaire cocktail--a classy update combining Torani Amer with pomegranate syrup, vodka and Punt e Mes vermouth (get the recipe here).