That’s Amaro! With Miriam Wahlhütter of Navi Lounge

Is amaro – that bitter, herbal, digestivo – in its renaissance era? 

With Euro Summers trending and new Italian restaurants hitting Melbourne as hard as the moon hits your eye (like a big pizza pie), it could be. Navi Lounge, the bar beside Yarraville’s two-hatted Navi, believes amaro is “set to be the drink of 2024”. 

Navi has launched an Amaro Tasting Flight Experience to showcase “the beauty of traditional and modern takes on amaro.” The tasting flight features a selection of drops hand-picked by Navi’s Bar Manager, and amaro aficionado, Miriam Wahlhütter including a native Australian amaro from Autonomy Distillers that “evokes the smell of the bush after the rain” and a traditional amaro from Bologna that “encapsulates the flavours of the Mediterranean”.

This March, choose from experiencing three ($35) or five ($50) small-batch, herabaceous amari at Navi Lounge.

We asked for Miriam’s thoughts on all things amaro and why you should taste the Italian liqueur in a new, local, light.

Love at first sip…

I was first introduced to amaro as an inside, hospo drink (most often consumed as a shot) that you would either offer to fellow industry members coming into your bar or that you would be offered when visiting them at theirs. To be completely honest, at first, I loved this ritual more than the actual drink, but soon fell in love with the complexity of sweet-herbal flavours in each bottle I tried, and was amazed by just how different they all could be.  

How do the Australians do it…

As with a lot of Australian spirits, native Australian ingredients seem to be the focus of many local amari, quite similar to using local ingredients typical for its respective region in Italy. However, we do notice that Australian Amaro makers are a bit more open to experimentation when it comes to ingredients not traditionally used in Italian amari, while still capturing the essence of amari. 

A good example would be the amaro from Autonomy, which is quite a sweet amaro on the lighter side, comparable to Amaro Montenegro, but has a distinctive Australian flavour due to the use of Tasmanian pepper berry, cinnamon myrtle, and lemon-scented gum.

Mixing things up…

My favourite amaro cocktail is definitely the Paper Plane! I like it so much that I even got a paper plane-tattoo in honour of it! The cocktail was created by Aussie bartender Sam Ross in 2007, and is named after a M.I.A. song popular at the time of its creation. It’s an equal parts cocktail made with bourbon, bittersweet orange-red aperitivo like Aperol, Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, and lemon juice. 

Bite me…

Because of their sweetness, while still providing bitterness and herbal notes, a lot of amari lend themselves to being consumed with desserts. But in the right balance, they can also go with savoury food, for example, we serve an amaro and pisco cocktail with our black garlic and salmon roe macarons as part of our cocktail tasting flight in the lounge.

The next round…

I am (and all of us at Navi are) really excited about the Beechworth Bitters range. Their amari are innovative and not held back by tradition, and the results are so delicious. We currently feature their ‘A walk in the black forest’ and ‘B8’ amaro on our tasting flight and also have a cherry + chocolate negroni on our menu that uses one of their amari.

Find Navi Lounge (and their amari collection) at 83B Gamon Street, Yarraville.  

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