The wide world of the bitter liqueurs known as amari continues to grow year over year, expanding beyond the borders of Italy into places like Germany, Poland, and even the U.S. Consistently ranking among our favorites of the class is Amaro Nonino, a somewhat difficult-to-find and slightly pricey bottle of Italian amaro. So, what’s the big deal? Today we’re doing a deep dive into one of my favorite bottles on the bar cart.
What Is Amaro Nonino (History)
Known by the brand name Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, this Italian bitter liqueur was invented in 1992 in Friuli, Northern Italy by a 4th generation distiller named Benito Nonino. What sets it apart from many other types of amaro is the fact that it is made with grappa base (a grape-based brandy), which lends distinctively fruity notes to the flavor profile.
The grappa is then infused with the Nonino family recipe of botanicals Benito’s father Antonio used in 1933 using their art of distillation. The unique blend includes sweet and bitter orange, rhubarb, thyme, gentian root, quinine bark, wormwood, tamarind, and a host of other spices and mountain herbs for a gently bittersweet and less syrupy amaro that can easily be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, in amaro spritzes, or in amaro cocktails like the Paper Plane.
Is Amaro Nonino considered an aperitivo or a digestivo?
That all depends on how you serve it. Aperitifs are served before a meal and are typically drier, less sweet, and have a lower ABV. Digestifs, on the other hand, are typically boozier, more bitter, and sweeter.
If you serve an amaro spritz or an amaro and soda before a meal, it’d be considered an aperitivo drink. If you were to serve Amaro Nonino neat, on the rocks, or in an amaro cocktail like a Negroni with an orange peel, it would be considered a digestivo, more appropriate for serving after the meal.
What Does Amaro Nonino Taste Like
Taste is a subjective experience, so I’ve broken the category of taste into 5 branches:
- Appearance - Nonino amaro is reddish-golden amber with a relatively thin viscosity for an amari.
- Aroma - Burnt orange, caramel, apricot, herbaceous thyme, a bit of spice.
- Taste - Delicately bittersweet notes of gentian root and tonic with hints of saffron, caramel, and citrus.
- Aftertaste - Equal parts gentian & wormwood bitterness and caramelly sweetness, balanced by a hint of spice.
- Overall - Fruity, bittersweet, caramel, and spice dominate the spiritous base.
How Much Alcohol Is In Amaro Nonino
Amari can range in booziness from as little as 11% ABV (alcohol by volume) in Aperol all the way up to 40-45% ABV in Fernet Branca. Amaro Nonino is on the more spirited side with an impressive 35% ABV, which is just shy of other spirits like gin or whisky.
Are There Any Amaro Nonino Substitutes
There is actually quite a large field of different types of amari, but your best bet is to stick to slightly sweeter, boozier varieties like Averna, Meletti, Ramazzotti, Montenegro, Tosolini, Cynar or Vecchio Amaro del Capo. You can also veer away from the purely Italian bitters and swap in German Jagermeister, Norwegian Gammel Dansk, or French Chartreuse.
Nonino Amaro vs Campari — What’s the difference?
While both are considered part of the amari family and the origin of amaro hails from Northern Italy, Campari is a much brighter hue of red, has a lower ABV, and is considerably more bitter than Amaro Nonino.
How To Drink Amaro Liqueur & Why We Like It
When it comes to cocktail hour, I typically lean into big flavors. Overly sweet or one-note drinks just don’t do it for me! One of the things I love most about Amaro Nonino (and amari in general) is how much complexity you get from a single pour.
I can taste the grapiness of the grappa, the bitterness of quinine, wormwood, and gentian root, the zesty citrus of sweet and bitter oranges, the warmth of saffron, and a lovely note of burnt caramel all in one quaff.
Aside from being deliciously craveable, I also love how versatile Amaro Nonino is. You can use it as a substitute for sweet vermouth in Manhattans, or a substitute for Campari or Aperol in a spritzer. It’s equally delicious served neat or on the rocks with a splash of soda. In short, Calvin and I use it all the time!
What Are The Best Amaro Brands
Taste is entirely subjective, but the different types of amaro spirits I like to keep on hand to make artisan cocktails include:
- Amaro Nonino
- Fernet Branca
How Much Does Amaro Nonino Quintessentia Cost?
Depending on the liquor store, a 750-ml bottle of Amaro Nonino Quintessentia can run between $50-60. It isn’t cheap, but it pays massive flavor dividends! Just think of all the fabulous cocktails you can make, it could also be a perfect gift for a loved one! If you can't find Amaro Nonino at your local liquor store, you'll likely be able to oder it online with fast shipping and minimal fees for delivery!
Amaro Nonino Cocktails
What are your favorite Amaro Nonino cocktails? Let me know in the comments below or share your cocktail creation with me on social media! You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest - for more delicious recipes sent straight to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter!