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Mexican Amari

Will Motley

Santiago Tulantepec, Mexico

Amargo-Vallet Angostura
Santiago Tulantepec, Mexico

Bitter is in. Pop by any respectable cocktail bar these days and you're likely to find an array of digestivos — especially from the family of dark, bitter liqueurs of mostly Italian descent known as amari.

One branch of that family, fernet, is more bitter than its cousins, with little or no sugar added (most amari balance their concoction of bitter herbs with a pronounced sweetness). You probably identify fernet with a single brand, Branca, and with good reason. They've dominated the category for decades.

But it turns out we have a lot left to discover about who's making amari where. Our latest acquisition comes from a wildly unlikely source: a Frenchman in Mexico City.

Henri Vallet emigrated from France to Mexico in the 1860s. The two amari produced under his name today are still made from the original recipes he developed in that era. In D.F. and Guadalajara, these are everywhere. But only recently did import adventurers at Haas Brothers start bringing them into the United States. Already they're taking off. 

Way less minty than Fernet-Branca, Vallet is dominated by baking spices that lend it greater versatility and (at least for my taste) drinkability. And there's the Amargo, made from angostura bark and macerated cherries and cloves. Totally delicious.

Have one with an afternoon coffee, make it the base note in an evening cocktail — hell, pour it on your cereal. Whatever you do, check these out. They're dope.