Most commonly served neat, each amaro is a complex cocktail unto itself. But that hasn’t stopped bartenders from throwing the bittersweet liqueurs into mixed drinks of every style, from Margaritas to cobblers to Daiquiris. One of the most refreshing ways to mix with amaro, however, is almost as simple as a neat pour: Enter the amaro highball.
To construct one, pair amaro with the modifiers of your choice and lengthen with a sparkling topper. The Second Serve, for example, adds fino sherry to Amaro Montenegro, alongside lime juice for acidity and simple syrup for balance. Others in the canon replace the tonic water with ginger beer: The Italian Buck combines that piquant flavor with Cynar and Montenegro, while The Waterfront contrasts the spicy kick of ginger with cooling, minty Branca Menta.
Even when amaro’s not in the starring role, it can add dimension to just about any highball-style cocktail. The Averna Smash, for instance, bolsters the namesake amaro with bitter lemon soda, while the Session Dark ’n’ Stormy pairs rich Montenegro with a smaller measure of blackstrap rum to achieve the familiar caramel notes of the classic. And, used in conjunction with liqueurs, amari can balance out tropical, fruit-forward flavors. In the Iz Bananaz, for instance, Montenegro acts as a bridge between grassy cachaça and funky banana liqueur.
But the easiest way to construct the highball, keeping it to two ingredients, is by simply topping amaro with tonic. Amaro Meletti or other bottlings that have a cola-like profile are excellent in the two-part format, says Hayley Wilson, bartender at Portland, Maine’s Hunt + Alpine Club. And Cynar, with its distinctive vegetal notes, works well, too. According to New York’s Joaquín Simó, the bracing flavors “open up” in this format, and “a bubbly mixer ensures imminent quaffability.”